No Middle Ground

If you don’t love your brother you might just as well murder him.  There is no middle ground.  Hold on!  Step away from the gun.  I am making a point (actually John is) in a blunt way.  There is no middle ground between love and murder when considering whether your actions are motivated by the Holy Spirit or by Satan.  Your actions reveal to whom you belong.  Here’s how John sets it up:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

Somebody asks, “Hey, John, what if I just sort of tolerate my brother?  Do I really have to love him?”  John’s response is:

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. (1 John 3:11-12a)

There is no middle ground.  Any attitude toward your brother that is not produced by the Holy Spirit is motivated ultimately by Satan.  The Spirit produces life; Satan comes to kill and destroy.  John says, you either are a child of God and have His Spirit, or you do not and are a child of Satan. That sounds harsh to us.  We want shades of gray, ambiguity, moral no man’s land.  But spiritual reality leaves no middle ground.  It is like the sharp edge of a sword, dividing one side from another.   Jesus taught this “either-or” message in the sermon on the mount”

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22 )

There is no middle ground.  You either are in step with, and powered up by, the Spirit of God, Who gives life, or ultimately serve the one who brings death.  That teaching is tough.  It doesn’t sound reasonable.  But it is true.  We might compare it to the attitude of a college football coach who will not accept anything less than 100% from his players.  Any player who is half-hearted, who simply goes through the motions, might just as well go sit with the other team.  No middle ground. The difference with John’s teaching is that who you are, which “team” you are on, is not based on personal effort but rather on a gift, God’s Gift, His Spirit.  That is why John calls those who live by the Spirit “Children of God.”  They have been born into new life in a new family.  In his Gospel, John explains it:

Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

If this doesn’t rub abrasively against your natural instincts, you should read it again, chew on it some more.  There is more coming…

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