If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? Proverbs 24:12-14 NIV
Back in my younger years.
I was a part of a small group of friends and anytime we got together we would get into these weird theological debates about all sorts of random subjects. We spent literal hours beating to death biblical topics that really had no clear consensus, even among the “experts”. One of our favorite debate topics was the “sin that leads to death” (1st John 5:16-17) or the “unpardonable sin”. We would make all kinds of wild speculations about what this sin might possibly be. Then we would take turns passionately arguing our half-baked theories concerning a subject we knew nothing about.
Those were the days.
I still have no idea what the sin that leads to death is (no one does). That said, I do know of one sin that rarely gets the credit it deserves for the trouble it causes.
It could be said that passivity is the mother of all sins because passivity really is the seldom recognized sin at the root of the original sin. A careful reading of the creation account indicates Eve was not present when God forbade humanity from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). Nonetheless, Adam said nothing as the serpent tempted Eve. He then chose to passively observe as his wife committed the sin that literally wrecked the entire world.
Adam’s passivity was every bit as sinful as Eve’s rebellion (Romans 5:12 and 14).
Biblical passivity was not limited to Adam and Eve.
David’s passivity as a parent created a breeding ground for the evil that would destroy the lives of three of his children (2nd Samuel 13) and nearly cost him his kingdom (2nd Samuel 15-18). The passivity of the priests concerning the idolatry of the people was the root cause of the Babylonian captivity. At the core of every one of the doctrinal problems Jesus calls out in Revelation 2:1-3:22 was a group of leaders and regular Christians who were unwilling to actively deal with some obvious problems.
The dictionary defines passivity as:
Acceptance of what happens, without an active response or resistance.
Passivity will quietly accept the intolerable without so much as a raised eyebrow. However, passivity is never driven by hatred or spite. It is typically born out of moral laziness, fear of causing offense, or fear being disliked or made fun of (Proverbs 29:25, Proverbs 26:13).
There was a shocking display of passivity on the news this past week. A drag queen (a man dressed as a woman) danced at an event in a diner where both adults and children were in attendance. He spun around the room in a very provocative fashion, repeatedly lifting his skirt in the faces of the audience as he sang a very crude song about a female body part. The whole incident was quite frankly, super gross.
Here’s the thing though,
It was clear from the body language of the audience there were quite a few adults’ present who were clearly uncomfortable with the whole performance. Nonetheless, not one person walked out. No one attempted to remove the children. Not a single soul present did anything at all to protest an event that would have been viewed as an obvious act of child abuse just a couple of years ago.
The sin of passivity is causing all sorts of systemic evil to take root every sphere of life (Proverbs 29:25). Passive elders and docile church members who look the other way when they see sin in the lives of their pastors, priests and church leaders are a key reason Christianity is held in such low regard in our society. Fear of confrontation (a form of passivity) creates a breeding ground for abusive and unjust situations to flourish. Spouses who choose to ignore their partner’s sin rather than lovingly confront it create the perfect environment for sin to take root in the entire family. Passive parents who refuse to correct or discipline their disobedient children are at least partly responsible for the social chaos our culture is experiencing. Passive voters are the primary reason so many democracies have gone off the rails in recent years.
Passivity can be defined as the sin of allowing sin to continue unchecked.
Here’s the thing:
The passive person in a situation always bears at least some of the responsibility for the sin that results or grows as a result of their choosing to be passive because passive people are enablers. Regardless of our personality type we are all inclined towards passivity on some level. It is literally a part of our spiritual DNA. It is an inclination we must fight.
The key to fighting passivity is to identify it. Anytime we feel uncomfortable with a situation we see or are involved in, it is essential we lean into that discomfort and ask ourselves what exactly is making us uncomfortable.
Are we uncomfortable because we are witnessing sin?
If that’s the case, then the only reasonable course of action is to say something (Jude 23) because speaking the truth in love is the only way to stop evil in its tracks (Ephesians 4:15).