For God's People, Silence is Not an Option
Last week, I heard a woman give a short testimony from a favorite passage of mine found in Jeremiah 20. In that passage, the prophet Jeremiah is weary. He’s been beaten (literally) by people he’d thought were his friends, betrayed by his own family and continually ridiculed for delivering a message that God had given him to deliver. He is wondering if it is worth speaking for God anymore, or if the best thing for him to do is to just shut up. He laments:
“I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.” (Jeremiah 20:7-8)
Jeremiah knew that speaking God’s truth would cost something. While Christians living in 21st century America do not suffer the severity of persecution that the prophets and early followers of Christ suffered, speaking up and living for Jesus can and will eventually cost us something as well. It might cost us the favor of those in our community. It might cost us relationships with people who stand opposed to Christ. It might cost us our platforms or influence or reputation. These things aren’t the same as being imprisoned or executed like many Christians around the world are every year, but even lighter forms of persecution still hurt. Of course, even as brutal as some of the persecution Jeremiah faced were, none of it was able to silence him. He asserts:
“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.’” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Wow, did you catch that? Even as bad as the ridicule was, being put in chains, having his dignity stolen, Jeremiah, known to us today as “The Weeping Prophet,” couldn’t stop talking to people about the things of God. He contended that if he tried to keep the words of the Lord from springing forth from his mouth, he would ache in his very soul. Jeremiah didn’t continue speaking for God because he was a glutton for punishment; he spoke simply because that which was within him had to come out. We are commanded by God to speak up for Him as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) and to reflect God’s goodness to others as “light(s) of the world” (Matthew 5:16). The Great Commission given in Matthew 28:18-20 to go make disciples of all nations is not a suggestion; it is a command from Jesus to go change the world. Changing the world starts with changing hearts, as God shows a person his sinfulness and leads him to the cross where Jesus suffered and died to satisfy God’s wrath for us. Once we realize that we are forgiven, we go tell others, just as David shows us in Psalm 51. After he was forgiven by God for adultery, deceitfulness and murder, David said, “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13). The fact that he was forgiven by God was too much to keep to himself; he had to go tell somebody. For pastors, church leaders and Christians who want to impact the lost world around us, being silent is not an option. Yes, we should be wise in how we speak. Yes, there will be times when speaking isn’t helpful. Overall, however, the world needs to hear our voice, because the words we carry come straight from God. I say that with the assumption that what we are saying can be backed up with Scripture; most of the time, what we say should be primarily Scripture-driven. Christian, I hope you will keep speaking up for God’s truth in boldness, with gentleness and in love. You have been forgiven by God for horrible sins, and He expects you to be talking about it. You have been given so much in Christ, and He expects you to be talking about it. You have received so many blessings as a child of God, and He expects you to be talking about it. All these things are worth talking about! Being silent is not an option.