Jesus and Lao Tzu: Does God Take Sides?

Jesus and Lao Tzu: Does God Take Sides? April 22, 2024

While armies rage, news platforms and influencers draw battle lines. But does God take sides? Here’s what Jesus and Lao Tzu say…

Jesus and Lao Tzu fighting with a sword
AI image generated by author at playground.com

Everyone likes to believe that God is on their side. In any conflict, faithful people in both camps claim that theirs is the side of right and righteousness. But Jesus and Lao Tzu agree—God (Chinese philosophy’s Tao, or “The Way”) does not take sides. In verse five of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu writes:

 

Tao Te Ching, Verse 4, Stephen Mitchell Translation

 

The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center.

 

Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys

To the human eye, it seems the universe is unfair in its justice. That’s because we don’t like to believe God treats everyone with impartiality. We prefer the idea that we are God’s favorites and that Heaven treats the “good guys” better than the “bad guys.” Yet, God has no favorites. Divine Love welcomes both saints and sinners. Having no favorites, Heaven wants believers and sages to reflect divine impartiality. In Matthew 5:44-46, Jesus says:

But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

 

God Shows No Partiality

It’s radical to say that God does not play favorites, but this is what the Bible claims. Romans 2:11 says, “God shows no partiality.”  Since God blesses the good and the bad equally, Jesus tells his followers to pray for all people just the same—whether they are friend or enemy.

Lao Tzu writes, “The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil.”  Though Christianity does not like to admit it, God created both angels and demons. Satan is just as much a creation of God as the holiest of angels. The genocidal dictator is just as much a child of God as Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama. God does not take sides.

 

Tao Is Patient, Tao is Kind…

In 1 Corinthians 13, you could easily substitute the phrase “Tao” for “love” and read it correctly. In unconditional love, Tao is indifferent. It is patient and kind to all. Tao is not envious or boastful or proud or rude. It does not seek its own way. Tao is not easily offended. It keeps no record of wrongs. Tao bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails. This is why Jesus teaches us to love our enemies.

 

The Way of Christ—Remain Impartial

The Way of Christ is to remain impartial. Jesus could see the righteousness of the woman caught in the act of adultery, and the wickedness in the religious leaders who accused her. He could see this because his spirit was like a bellows, empty enough to be completely free when open to the Holy Spirit, and forceful enough to breathe the wind of the Holy Spirit. When confronted with a vulnerable “sinner” on the one hand and crafty “religious” people on the other, Jesus could speak impartial wisdom that was incomprehensible to his hearers.

“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus said. On the one hand, he recognized the law, but on the other hand, he defended her against the law. Following the Tao, Jesus speaks only the necessary words. He doesn’t say more than he needs to. He simply breathes the truth like a bellows and allows the truth to do its work.

Bellows
“Pullens Yards Open Studios, December 2015” by timfrost is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Center of a Bellows

“Hold to the center,” Lao Tzu says. The center is impartial. It neither mistreats the sinner nor exalts the saint. It simply sees and speaks the truth. Aligning our lives with the Way of Love, Jesus’s followers can center themselves on the Tao. Christ is the living Way. If we become like Christ, we will make ourselves open enough to breathe in and breathe out like a bellows. When we allow enough breathing space in our lives, we can breathe in the spirit and breathe out truth.

Jesus spoke of the power of this wind, blown by the bellows of the Tao. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” By holding to that center part, that open and vacuous part of the bellows, we too can blow with the Spirit.

A bellows can only blow when its center is open. Fill it with sawdust and it no longer works like a bellows. Fill your mind with too much partiality and too many judgments, and your spirit can no longer function the way it was intended. Like Jesus, if you allow a non-judgmental breathing space in the center of your soul, you can “fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you.

 

Something to Practice…

Life presents plenty of opportunities for you to show partiality. Taking sides is part of human nature—but it isn’t the nature of Christ. The next time someone asks you to take sides in a conflict, step aside and breathe. Take at least three long slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Imagine yourself as a bellows, drawing in air and blowing it out. Find your center in that empty space inside. Allow yourself to identify completely with that vacuity within. Then, step back into the situation. Holding to your center, practice making decisions that show no partiality.

 

For related reading, check out my other articles:

About Gregory T. Smith
I live in the beautiful Fraser Valley of British Columbia and work in northern Washington State as a behavioral health specialist with people experiencing homelessness and those who are overly involved in the criminal justice system. Before that, I spent over a quarter-century as lead pastor of several Virginia churches. My newspaper column, “Spirit and Truth” ran in Virginia newspapers for fifteen years. I am one of fourteen contributing authors of the Patheos/Quoir Publishing book “Sitting in the Shade of another Tree: What We Learn by Listening to Other Faiths.” I hold a degree in Religious Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, and also studied at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. My wife Christina and I have seven children between us, and we are still collecting grandchildren. You can read more about the author here.
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