“When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” I Kings 18:17
Finding the balance between standing up against injustice and condemning another person is often difficult. There are those times when evil must be exposed but followers have to be careful not to slip into a judgmental attitude towards others. Throughout the Bible we have different occasions when some people are willing to confront injustice, while other people turn a blind eye in the name of tolerance or inclusivity. For instance last month, I had the opportunity to tour the ancient ruins of Sebastia in the West Bank. This is fortress where King Ahab established as the capital for the nation of Israel about 800 years prior to Christ. In the Bible, King Ahab was a politician who was one of the greatest conflict-avoiders in history, because he didn’t want to take a stand for God’s ways. So instead of confronting injustice, he would just let it slide until his kingdom was in shambles. Certainly it was a lousy time to be the king of Israel. The nation had been split in two by civil war. The economy was in disorder. And the Assyrians were threatening to invade from the North. Yet instead of trusting God, Ahab put his hope in his marriage to a queen from Phoenician named Jezebel. She brought quite a bit of money to this marriage but she also brought a fanatical devotion to the Phoenician god Baal. So when Jezebel moved into the palace of Ahab in Sebastia she instituted the worship of Baal. Ahab didn’t want to upset his wife and didn’t want to make any judgments regarding his new wife’s religion. Ahab was willing to accommodate her at any cost. After all, Ahab thought that Baal was a harmless god, just an idol who made lots of promises and no demands. Humans always loved undemanding gods. When Jezebel recruited 450 prophets of Baal to do a little evangelism in Israel, Ahab thought he was just being religiously tolerant. When she tore down the altars to the Lord Yahweh, Ahab thought she was just being devout in her religion. But by the time she began killing the Lord’s prophets, Ahab realized it was too late to stop her. There is no such thing as an accommodating a fundamentalist. Ahab didn’t want to get entangled in these issues. When it came to religion, the king didn’t mean to turn his back on the Lord, but he was just being a tolerant and open-minded pluralist. However, he was married to a fundamentalist. Anytime there is a marriage between a fundamentalist and a pluralist, the fundamentalist will always prevail.
When God saw his prophets being slaughtered in the streets of Israel, and when he saw Ahab doing nothing but sticking his head in the sand, God decided to get involved in the conflict. God called on a man named Elijah who was never afraid to address a conflict. In listening to God, Elijah reminded everyone that there is no neutral in the great cosmic conflict between God and the idols that try to pull us from his hands. It’s either God’s way or no way to live. Elijah reminds everyone that you have to make a judgment on who you will serve. In fact, that’s one of the ways you define your life — by choosing whether you will use your life for God or against him. No one avoids that choice. As the story unfolds we see that it is the conflict-avoider, Ahab, who never wants to confront injustice who dies a miserable and horrible death. While Elijah is taken up in joy and glory. The mark of a joy-filled life and community is not the absence of taking a stand. The mark of a follower of Jesus is one who stays faithful and doesn’t try to play God!
So this Lent I challenge you with the task of having the courage to confront conceit and injustice when you perceive it without sliding into playing the role of God and deciding another person’s salvation. There is no Net Neutrality in the cosmic conflict between God and the idols. God will judge our lives….that is not our job! Faithfulness is never easy! But if we could begin, by God’s grace give up condemning others this Lent perhaps it will be the beginning of surrendering this practice forever.