I remember during season one of The Walking Dead thinking to myself, when are the people going to become the bad guys? At that time, the walkers were pretty much the only antagonists and it wasn’t really until the governor appeared in season three where a group of people became a major adversary for Rick and his group. But since the third season we have watched the walkers’ actions take a back seat to the horrible things that people did to each other.
Consequently, in almost every season since, many characters have had to choose sides in major conflicts between people groups. Also, we have seen the different groups evolve and join together in partnerships and factions. But over the years, the main narrative for the show has been to introduce new characters and watch them figure out which people to side with in the various conflicts, battles and even wars.
This week we see the same thing happening again, but now it is between the whisperers and the various towns working together to survive the zombie apocalypse. Lydia, Alpha’s daughter is clearly no longer a whisperer but she didn’t kill her mom while she was saving Daryl. Perhaps she hasn’t really chosen which side she is on yet or she is going to stay relatively neutral until someone decides for her.
There is also Gamma, the whisperer who killed her sister but now is feeling regret and disloyalty to the whisperers. Unfortunately, Alpha and (the terrifying) Beta are on to her, but the citizens of Alexandria don’t quite know what to make of her. This week they put her in the jail and questioned her like so many others in past seasons – this time it is Gabriel and Rosita doing the questioning.
Gamma: All’s I’ve done is tell you the truth.
Gabriel: You haven’t. This is not for show. I am a servant of God. I’ve taken many confessions, and I can tell when people are holding things back.
Rosita: Holding things back is the same as lying. Outside at the gate, the story you had about being the aunt of the baby It’s not a story. it does tug at all the right heartstrings, but you’re hiding something, which makes the whole thing a lie.
Gamma: Ask God if I’m lying.
Gabriel: I’ve spoken to God. He told me to hang you.
It is easy to forget that father Gabriel is the same person who killed his entire congregation by locking them out of the church at the beginning of the apocalypse, but now he has emerged as a leader in the community. This is something that probably would have never happened in the pre-apocalypse world. But here he is acting tough and trying to convince Gamma that he can read though her story. Of course, he can’t.
But Rosita’s accusation about the sin of omission is actually quite funny. As a soldier, Rosita knows better than to blame someone for being loyal to the other side by not talking. But here they try to convince Gamma that not telling them what the whisperers are up to is morally outrageous. But we know that Gabe is also lying to her about God’s execution orders for her.
I asked myself aloud, is lying really the problem here, or is it really about choosing the right side?
As a believer, I would constantly be looking at what each people group held as their values before I joined them. Do they show compassion and mercy or do they just kill? Is it possible to love God and your neighbor in that community?
But let’s face it; we still do a lot of that in the real world. At our work, how do we choose which groups of people we are closest with? Or at school, which groups of people are our friends. Are they bullies? Are they kind? Do they believe the same things that I do?
Life is complicated and sins of omission aren’t as black and white as they sound on the surface. Daryl is clearly not telling Alpha all kinds of information while they are bleeding out on the floor of a shed before Lydia comes. Is that a sin of omission? Of course not.
The reality is that the whisperers are a group that victimizes and kills virtually everyone that they come across. Most of us know intuitively that joining this group would most likely becoming a torturer and a murderer. Gamma is very aware of this. But we must not forget that there has been lots of bad behavior from our protagonists too (including Rosita and Gabriel).
So what do the scriptures say? I think that one of my favorite verses from the book of James sums it up perfectly.
17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17(NIV)
The author here is the brother of Jesus and the head of the church in Jerusalem. He is talking here about people who say they are going to do one thing and then do another, but the principle the same. What he is saying is that those of us who are followers of Jesus, typically know what the right choice is in most decisions. Usually, we are choosing between greed or charity, lust or purity, selfishness or selflessness and pride or humility (just to name a few). The decision isn’t usually hard because we don’t know what to do. The decision is often hard because the right decision isn’t always best for us. Sometimes the right thing to do means sacrifice.
This is essentially what sin is. Sin is simply going against the way that God made us. And if we are honest with ourselves, we know when it is wrong. We don’t need a pastor or theologian to tell us we are wrong, the answer is spelled out in the scriptures and usually written on our hearts.
SEASON 10, EPISODE 10 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1) Why do you think Lydia doesn’t kill Alpha when she has the chance?
2) Do you think she should have? Why or why not?
3) Do you think that Gabriel is lying when he says that God told him to execute Gamma? Why or why not?
4) Do you think that Gamma is committing a sin of omission? Why or why not?
5) What do you think that Judith thinks they should do with Gamma? Why?
6) Would it be hard for you to figure out which side to be a part of? Why or why not?
7) Could you justify doing the things that Gamma has to do as a double agent? Why or why not?
8) Have you ever had a situation in your life where you knew the right thing to do, but you couldn’t do it? How did that turn out?
9) Have you ever had a situation in your life where you knew the right thing to do, and you did do it? How did that turn out?
10) Is it possible that God has written on our hearts what is right and what is wrong? Why or why not?
11) What kinds of steps could you take to make sure that you make good decisions?
Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.