Undecideddilemma:”A state of indecision between two alternatives”

Part of the price of growing older is coming to terms that life is complex. When one is younger the world is black and white. Growing older doesn’t mean the jettisoning of moral absolutes. It does mean coming to terms that applying those absolutes in some situations is difficult.

Similarly, trying to decide what we believe God would have us do in some situations, is also very difficult. There are times when the issue may not be our reluctance to obey Christ. Rather we are not sure what we should do.

Christians in Malaysia face various dilemmas. For example, in recent times, many of us have felt torn between the biblical mandate to fight for justice, and the biblical mandate to fight for religious freedom.

1. The mandate to fight for justice.

One would think that the call to fight for justice should be recognised as a clear biblical mandate. Verses like Isaiah 1:17 cannot be clearer.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.” (NLT)

Strangely, this Biblical mandate to fight for justice is rarely heard in evangelical churches. Perhaps we are not quite sure what it means. Gary A. Haugen gives us a useful definition. He defines injustice in the following way:

“Injustice occurs when power is misused to take from others what God has given them, namely, their life, dignity, liberty or the fruits of their love and labour.”

As Christians we must speak up against injustice. Our reluctance to enter into justice issues may stem from the fear that it might distract us from the all important task of evangelism. I feel that this is a unnecessary fear. When we fight for justice, we reveal the character of the Saviour God we are trying to share with those lost in sin.

Of course it could just be the sheer reluctance to jeapordise our hard earned middle class lifestyle that holds us back from taking this path. But some of us are also held back because we are just not quite sure what we should do.

The social and political landscape of Malaysia is such that the fight for justice sometimes aligns us with those who may threaten a fundamental liberty, the freedom of religion.

2. The mandate to fight for religious freedom.

When Christians fight for religious freedom, it is a recognition that it is God Himself who grants to mankind the freedom to decide how we are to respond to Him. Our foreparents, Adam and Eve, chose wrongly and we all share in that fatal choice.

God’s plan B, salvation through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, also presupposes the same freedom. Christ’s call to follow Him is nonsense unless we also have the freedom to say ”no”. Religious freedom is a God given freedom.

In his excellent book, ”Freedom of Religion in Malaysia” Lee Min Choon writes:

“The choice of religion to believe in and the choice to conduct one’s life according to a particular set of religious precepts are among the highest expressions of conscience and reason that can be made by a human being. The dignity of a human being is ensured when he is accorded the freedom to believe and the freedom to worship.”

Min Choon goes on to cogently argue that the fight for real freedom of religion on Malaysia is merely a fight to protect what was enshrined in the constitution. He writes:

“The founding fathers of this nation agreed on behalf of all the communities that the Federation of Malaya would be a secular state.”

Therefore there are some in the Christian community who will not align themselves with any group that will further threaten the limited freedom of religion that exists in the country. For them the fight for religious freedom is paramount.

3. The horns of the dilemma.

How do I follow the above two mandates in this moment in Malaysian history? Perhaps I have set up a false dilemma. Perhaps there is a biblical way to resolve the ”apparent” dilemma. Some may have found a way to reconcile these two mandates in the present Malaysian political and social landscape. Many of us continue to struggle. In the meantime some thoughts come to mind.

This side of heaven we see things imperfectly, “as in a poor mirror” 1 Cor.13:12 NLT). Therefore there will be situations where there will be ambiguities.

We should not allow a desire for a perfectly clear answer paralyse us into doing nothing.

We all need to struggle with our consciences as to what we believe the Lord requires us to do. Many of us do not even struggle, finding the ambiguities too uncomfortable.

Covered by grace and compelled by love, we step forth in faith, doing what we believe the Lord would have us do.

We must be prepared that different Christians and different Christian groups will end up with different convictions.

We need to continue to humbly love the brothers and sisters who choose different paths from us. Our diversity in unity is itself a powerful witness.

In the meantime we must continue to pray and dialogue with each other in the hope that further light will break forth from God”s Word and God”s Spirit as to what is our Christian duty in Malaysia today.

Some things are clear. As followers of Jesus we are to be salt and light in the world. That means we do not have the luxury of hiding away in our spiritual ghettos, totally uninvolved in the public sphere.

Lord, show us what to do. Then give us the strength to do it.