One of the greatest hindrances in the church today is passivity, which is defined as “lacking in energy or will; accepting or allowing what happens or what others do without active response or resistance.” We have bought into the mindset that it is permissive to do nothing. Many churches have been destroyed due to its members refusing to stop someone who is destroying its work with their personal agenda. Other churches have died because they refuse to look beyond themselves and confront the lostness of their community with the power of the Gospel.
The church’s passivity is indicative of passivity in other areas of life, including our families. This is not a new problem, as it is seen in Genesis in the family of Jacob. It did not start with Jacob, but he was modeled a line of family problems that were ignored, rather than addressed. Jacob was a momma’s boy and got her to help him trick his father into giving him the birthright that belonged to Esau, the oldest son.
When Jacob was a young man, he fell into love with Rachel, the oldest daughter of Laban. Jacob made a deal that he would work for Laban for seven years in return for Rachel. On Jacob’s wedding day, Laban pulled a switch and tricked Jacob to marry Leah, Rachel’s older and less attractive sister. Jacob agreed to work seven more years for the right to marry Rachel, where the competition increased in the house, eventually resulting in Jacob deceiving Laban to leave him.
In each encounter, Jacob refused to do anything about the issues. As a father, he was too busy, too preoccupied, and unconcerned, which meant that he was too passive to deal with what was occurring in the lives of his children. When Joseph came along and was an antagonist to his brothers, Scripture says that Jacob, “kept the matter in mind” (Genesis 37:11). In other words, Jacob thought about it and decided to do nothing.
Earlier, Jacob’s daughter, Dina, was raped. When word came to Jacob, “he did nothing” (Genesis 34:5) because his sons were in the fields. Jacob’s sons responded by killing all the men in the city where the rape occurred and carried off their wealth, along with their children and women. Jacob was most concerned about his public relations with the rest of the people in the land.
One of Jacob’s sons, Reuben, later had sexual relations with Bilhah, one of his father’s concubines who was the mother of two of his half-brothers. When hearing about it, Jacob was so passive that he did nothing about it. Over and over, Jacob seemed to fold his arms and look the other way.
Passivity is an enemy. I see many of the characteristics of Jacob in families today, as parents (and grandparents) choose to look the other way, rather than address an issue. Parents often allow the concern of the possible response to keep them quiet. Even in families that people describe as “good” or even “Christian,” drug and alcohol abuse is rampant, especially among prescription drugs. In our passivity, we choose to believe the “pain” a person is in, rather than addressing an issue.
Passivity has caused families to engage and be marked by sex outside of marriage and hatred against those unlike us. It has lead to the neglect of the spiritual development of children. In the pursuit of the next big thrill or newest thing, debt is about to swallow. Children demonstrate a lack of respect for authority and a sense of entitlement. The list could go on and on, but for each one we turn our heads to these issues, even making excuses for the sin.
In each instance described, something might have changed had someone just done something. Where do you need to unfold your arms, speak up, and do something? Failure to do so is a failure of eternal proportions.