I am a native of the Neutral Strip. Let me explain.
In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana territory from France. A definite western boundary of Louisiana, however, had not been determined. The Spaniards, who controlled Texas at the time, considered the western boundary of what is now part of the state of Louisiana to be the Red River. The Americans claimed the western boundary to be the Sabine River. In 1806, Spanish and American negotiators met to work out an agreement. When the sides could not agree whether the western boundary of Louisiana was the Red River or the Sabine River, the area between these two rivers was declared to be a neutral strip.
From 1806 to 1820, this area was referred to as the “Neutral Strip.” It soon attracted all kinds of people who were eager to take advantage of a land without law enforcement. It was not until 1820 that the western boundary of Louisiana was set at the Sabine River, and the Neutral Strip faded into history.
My ancestors lived in this neutral strip of land, and I was born and reared there myself. Although I was born a long time after the “Neutral Strip” was gone, it has had its effect on me. I have a strong streak in me that wants to remain neutral. I often find it easier to duck decisions than make them.
A young baseball umpire was calling his first game. Unfortunately, the game was very close, and the managers were menacing. In the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied, there were two outs, and the bases were loaded. The count on the batter was 1-1. The pitcher hummed a fast ball toward the plate, the batter did not swing, and the young umpire roared, “TWO!” Both managers came running toward the plate, stood on either side of the rookie umpire, and demanded in unison, “Two what?” The young umpire took a deep breath and said, “Too close to call.”
It is tempting in life for us to do that. To put off making a decision–remain neutral. The problem is that life keeps demanding a decision, especially about our allegiance to Christ and our obedience to His Lordship.
Those who have made the most impact for Christ have been those who have been willing to abandon the “Neutral Strip” and take a definite stand. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus both were believers in Christ, but both refused to stand with Him. There was something about Christ’s death on the cross, however, that moved them to renounce their neutrality, to claim His body, and to give Him an honorable burial (John 19:38-42).
I encourage you to be identified with Christ. If you are currently living in the “Neutral Strip,” abandon your neutrality and make the move to the land of His Lordship!
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.