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We often hear the rally cry for the Church to speak up, for Christians to use their voices, for the godly to be bold. But sometimes Christians need to be silent. I mean, really Church, learn when to shut up.
There is a time to speak up. I absolutely agree with you, my friends, as you shout this at me through your computer or phone screen.
When is that time?
When people are being oppressed and silenced, we are their voice. When babies are being slaughtered, we are their voice. When the marginalized are being overlooked or neglected or mistreated, we are their voice.
When our hearts are motivated by the Love of the Savior, we need to shout loudly.
But how do we shout? I don’t believe it’s with our social media accounts or obnoxious bumper stickers or snarky yet witty tee shirts and coffee mugs. No, instead we should go into the world and love people well, letting our actions shout louder than words ever could.
What if the Church of today learned the secret of the Early Church? The truth that genuine fellowship, prayer, and miracles speak more loudly to a lost and dying world than a cleverly designed sermon, technologically relevant message, or catchy song ever could. What would happen then?
I think the world would be so overcome with what they were seeing. They would flock to the Church instead of being repelled by it.
I believe wholeheartedly that if our actions spoke up and our voices spoke less, we would be beautiful ambassadors of the Gospel that reached hearts formerly hardened by sin and skepticism. Sometimes Christians need to be silent so that Jesus can be heard by their actions, instead of muffled by their message.
When In Doubt, Shut Up
I read today the words of a woman I’ve never met, but had the utmost respect for. She has a following in the tens of thousands among Christian women and is far more influential than I am.
And my heart broke at the way she chose to use her platform. She spoke out against another influential woman of faith, a woman I also admire and have prayed for extensively as news of her marriage falling apart has come to light.
With her words she questioned this other woman’s integrity, the inner workings of her heart and home, the right she had to still stand in ministry. Honestly, I wept as I read those words lashing out at a woman who was already openly wounded.
And my heart broke even more when the Holy Spirit showed me how all too often I do the same.
When those of us with a strong sense of justice see something amiss, we often look for a cause. It comforts us to reason through it, to call it to light, to be an agent of change.
I admit, I’ve been that voice absent of compassion and heavy with judgment all too often. I’ve looked at things analytically and critically, holding up others to a standard of righteousness I’ve yet to attain myself. And I’ve done it without even being aware of it because it comes so easily.
God, forgive me.
That’s when it hit me: sometimes Christians need to be silent. Sometimes, Church, it’s just time to shut up!
Love Is A Verb
“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul goes so far as to remind us that no matter what languages we speak, what good we do, what magnitude we give with, if we do it apart from love it has absolutely no value at all and we are nothing.
Love is an action; it is a state of being that directs every single thing we do and apart from it, our Christianity is nothing. Nothing at all.
God Himself is Love and the world will know we are His by our Love. And it is Love that drove Jesus to the Cross and into the grave before He rose again. It is Love that called the Father to create us and give us free will, even knowing how often we would choose another beloved.
And it is Love that will beckon a lost and dying world to His heart. It won’t be our voices raised in condemnation against our own. It won’t be our proclamations of truth or our indignant cries of injustice. It will be our Love.
Sometimes Christians need to be silent, because what we are saying is so loud that no one can hear Jesus over it. That’s when it’s time for the Church to shut up.
Cast the First Stone
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard (and even believed, and acted upon) the idea that Christians are to judge rightly. How we have a responsibility to loudly proclaim truth and not compromise just to make others feel better. How it’s not only okay, but good, for us to see with discernment and correct those who are wrong.
And yet there was that moment in Scripture when Jesus stood between a woman absolutely dripping with guilty sin and her (self)righteous accusers and invited the one who had never sinned to cast the first stone.
The only One who could have done so didn’t choose to.
He instead covered her sin and told her to go and sin no more. He loved her in a way that she could never have imagined.
That’s my Jesus.
Isn’t He breathtaking? Isn’t He absolutely irresistible? Don’t you just want to run to Him?
Simply typing these words has tears falling out of my eyes, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been that woman dripping with guilt and deserving of a punishment far more severe than I’ve ever had to bear.
Church, this is the Jesus we are called to emulate. This is the example we are called to follow. This is the Love we are called to live out.
Beloved Church, we were never meant to be the angry crowd with stones in our hands. Yet here we are with our hands heavy with rocks and our hearts as hard as them when we stand in judgment of our fellow Christians and shout truth at them, absent of the Love of the Beloved Himself.
This Love didn’t have much to say, but what He did say was unforgettable.
What if the Church learned this? What if we stopped speaking out so loudly against sin and instead put down our stones? What if we stood between the accusers and the accused, silent with Love instead of vocal with “truth”?
When We As Christians Need to be Silent
So when do Christians need to be silent? Well, first we need to think before we speak and consider to whom we are speaking. We need to temper our thoughts before they leave our lips when we are speaking out.
I recognize that in the safe walls of a counselor’s office or in a meeting with a mentor we can and should speak freely, but that is appropriate. On social media? In a group? In casual conversation? Watch it!
Here are some times it is appropriate for the Church to shut up: When what we are saying isn’t lining up with 1 Corinthians 13. Whenever our words aren’t patient. Whenever our words aren’t kind. Whenever our words are keeping records of wrongs. Whenever what we are saying is subtly delighting in the downfall of another, even if it sounds like a prayer request.
Those are times we as Christians need to be silent.
Christians need to be silent when their words don’t line up with Philippians 4:6-9, too. I am learning to ask myself more and more: Is what I am saying true? Honest? Just? Pure? Lovely? Of good report? Praiseworthy? If not, that is when I know it’s time for me to shut up.
Our words should be drenched in gratitude, soaked in love, and delivered with grace.
I’m not there yet, friends. I’ll be the first to admit it. I fail, epically and often, at shutting up when I should. And sometimes at speaking up when I ought.
It’s just so darn easy to see the sin in someone else and to call it out, all in the name of helping them be more Christ like. It makes me feel better about myself sometimes to do that, if I’m being disgustingly honest with you and in my own heart.
After all, I’m seeing the truth of Scripture clearly and pointing them towards it, right? And it drives me to my knees in prayer, seeking God’s forgiveness for my wretchedness, because over and over the Holy Spirit reminds me that He doesn’t need my help to do His job. *ouch*
But here is what I know: it’s time for us to stop hurting our wounded. It’s time for us to stop shining a spotlight on the sins of our sisters, our friends, and even our leaders and instead pray for them.
It’s time for the Church to shut up and start living what it’s been preaching for so long, and let its actions be louder than its words.
It’s time to drop our stones and stand in front of the one who is guilty as hell, offering a covering of grace and mercy and loving truth instead of judgment. Because that is what Jesus did.
That is the Gospel in action, and that is the Love that transforms lives.