I am shocked, saddened and ashamed that so many who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ refuse to speak out on the things that matter. The sheeple under the steeple have a lot to answer for. So few will speak of their Saviour, will proclaim the good news of the Gospel, or dare to say anything about their faith for fear of alienating or offending people.
And very few believers will speak out on the great moral issues of the day, such as the mass slaughter of the unborn, or the concentrated attack on marriage and family. Why are these believers so silent? Why do they refuse to speak out when it is imperative that we do so?
In my reading this morning I again went through the story of Esther. Of course God providentially raised her up “for such a time as this” (4:14) to make a real impact for God’s people. Indeed, the Jews would have been wiped out had it not been for her and her willingness to speak out at crucial periods.
In ch. 2 we read about a plot to kill King Xerxes. Esther’s cousin Mordecai overheard this and told Esther to inform the king. She did, and the conspirators were quickly dealt with. But then a plot by Haman to kill all the Jews was uncovered, and God again providently used this Jewish pair to save his people. Let me offer here verse 4:14 which I just mentioned:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” So throughout this short book we see the importance of God’s people speaking out and not remaining silent.
Courageous Esther was willing to speak out regardless of the risks and opposition. Oh that we would have more Esthers in our ranks today, instead of this constant silence of the lambs. God will not hold us guiltless over our shameful and cowardly silence.
And perhaps much of this silence has to do with the tragic reality that many Christians really have no biblical worldview; they have no clue as to what their faith is all about. I have met far too many believers who have been Christians all or most of their life, yet are at a loss to explain basic Christian doctrine and beliefs.
They have at best an elementary and juvenile understanding of just what exactly their faith is all about. They are hard pressed to know why Islam is not compatible with Christianity, why the New Age Movement is at odds with orthodox Christian teachings, or why a cult like the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not true Christians.
A Lack of Love
But coupled with this unnecessary ignorance of biblical truth is another major problem which plagues today’s church: far too many Christians have simply bought into the secular notions of tolerance, and the world’s sentimental and superficial understandings of love.
Ironically, these silent sheeple will often offer the glib excuse that they are trying to be “loving”. But regrettably these folks do not seem to know what real love is. Biblical love is always about willing the highest good for the other person.
It is never about remaining silent concerning the eternal destiny of others for fear of being offensive or intolerant. And real love never winks at evil or pretends injustice is not taking place. Real love involves standing against that which is wrong. Consider Romans 12:9: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good”.
A hatred of evil is a vital and essential component of love. Not to hate evil means you are not really being loving. So a refusal to speak out, either in presenting the gospel, or speaking into the crucial ethical issues of our day, is in fact a sure sign that you do not really love as you ought to love.
A very helpful article along these lines was penned last year by Brandon Smith and is worth quoting in part. “When defining love, we must be extremely careful not to confuse it with affirmation. I love my wife whether she commits adultery or not, and I would forgive and reconcile with her if that were to ever happen (God forbid), but I would not condone nor endorse her to do it again. Christ’s death on the cross would cover that sin, but he would also command repentance and I rightly would expect the same. The beauty of the gospel is not that we get to sin freely, but that we are free to sin no more. We have so individualized everything in our culture that ‘what works for me is best for me’ has firmly seeped into much of today’s Christian thought. Repentance and dying to self flip that script entirely.”
Speaking about the woman caught in adultery, he continues, “[Jesus] then says, ‘Go and sin no more.’ See that? Love is not just the forgiveness of sins, but also the pointing toward something better. When Christians, exercising real humility and gentleness, tell a homosexual or alcoholic or adulterer or gossip queen that what they are doing is a sin, they are exercising the love of Christ. It is not loving to leave people in their sin or simply offer hollow acquittal. Jesus pardons sin and points us in the right direction.
“In reflecting on the aforementioned theological averment that promotes a choose-your-own-lifestyle therapy, it is grievous that the gospel is weakened to such a nebulous ideal. What’s more, this kind of thought is being broadcasted as the true teachings of Jesus. Jesus becomes nothing more than a naïve mother who accepts all of her children’s flaws. This flies in the face of the cross, where God in the flesh died the most gruesome form of execution ever created to gain victory over sin. He hung there because sin is that hideous and offensive. Paul lists a very particular set of sins in 1 Cor. 6:7-10 that range from the greedy to the homosexual and in verse 11 says, ‘that’s what some of you were, but you were sanctified and justified in Christ.’ In this transferred vindication, we walk away from those things and into the newness of life.
“The cross indicts every one of us but there is hope on the other side of an empty tomb. We cannot trust our own hearts. We cannot think of our own preferences. We cannot be defined by those things which God clearly warns against. We must be washed in the blood, sent out of the grave and into the world. There can be no reconciliation where sin is not only accepted but endorsed. It pains me to see people so blinded by their own fragmented hearts, but I can pray with joy and hope knowing that no one is out of the reach of God’s saving hand.”
If we truly love God and neighbour, we will take the time to know what our faith actually teaches, and then we will speak out. We will not remain silent. We will proclaim the whole counsel of God, and we will bravely speak into the vital moral issues of the day.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew full well these truths, and he paid for it with his life: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”