Jim White tells that kids in the children’s ministry of his church sometimes play the game: “Would You Rather.” The children all sit in the middle of the room. Questions are posed such as: “Would you rather have a birthday party at a pool or a birthday party at a park?” Then the children get up and go to one side of the room or the other, depending on which answer they prefer.
One Sunday the questions in the game were: “Would you rather spend your summer vacation at the beach or go to the mountains?” and “Would you rather watch fireworks or eat watermelon?” Children got up and went to one side of the room or the other.
Then came the question: “Would you rather have bad sunburn or 18 mosquito bites?” Children jumped up and went to one side of the room or the other—all but one five-year-old girl named Maddie. She just sat there alone in the middle. The adult leader said: “Maddie, aren’t you going to pick a side?” To which she said: “I don’t want to have to pick either one.” The leader wisely said: “I can understand that.”
What Maddie did took both courage and determination. Rather than simply follow the lead of her peers and accept that both bad options were the only choices available, she stood firm and questioned the possibility of something different. She refused to accept that she had to choose between the lesser of two evils. She was going to remain firmly away from both. She didn’t like the choices presented to her, so instead of choosing one, she refused to play the game.
We need more Maddies in the world, and more of us in the world need to be like her. We need the courage to stand up for our beliefs, even when the world is quickly dividing into one camp or another, and none of the camps reflects Jesus. We need the courage to swim upstream, stand alone, hold our ground and, if need be, to stay seated—alone—refusing to choose to give in to the lesser of two evils.
We need the determination to refuse to let the world set our moral choices, standards, and values. When pressured to conform, backed into a corner to make a “would you rather” decision that only presents compromise or sin, we need the determination that says: “I am not going to pick either one.” In other words, we find a third way.
Followers of Jesus should be “third way” people. The early church had an interesting nickname. It was sometimes called the “Third Way”. It referred to the early church refusing to be co-opted by culture or isolating itself from culture.
If the church had allowed itself to be co-opted by culture, it would have undermined the uniqueness of their belief system and way of life. If it had isolated itself from culture, it would have become irrelevant. The early Christians refused to play that game. They chose a very visible “third way” that simultaneously engaged the world while not compromising their beliefs. They chose to be in the world, but not of it. Maddie would’ve fit right in. How are you doing with that?