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Finding the Balance: Speak Up or Stay Silent?

With the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage, Christians have wrestled with how to respond. Various groups and leaders have taken stands on both sides, and the Internet is filled with endless comments, ranging from the highly intellectual to the downright toxic.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of my Christian friends have taken to Facebook to share their opinions, which seems to be increasingly par for the course in our generation. Social media has fostered a people that believes their opinions matter and need to be shared, which brings me to my question today: When faced with things with which we disagree, should we speak up or stay silent?

Proverbs is filled with advice to be sparing with our words, yet roughly 70 percent of the people in the developed world are extroverts and thus more prone to speak before they think. Many cultures, especially Western ones, value confident people of any status or age who speak their minds, yet many cultures (like Asia) are more interested in not rocking the boat with new ideas and radical opinions.

So, perhaps even more than some of the other questions we’ve discussed (“Wait on God or Just Do Something?” “Invest, Save or Give Away Your Money?” and “Be Spontaneous or Stick to the Plan?“), culture plays a huge part in determining where our convictions lie on the spectrum of answering this question. As such, we need to strive for even greater objectivity while we test our beliefs and to conform to “kingdom culture” rather than the world.

Looking at Jesus’ life, I think it’s fairly clear that Christians do need to speak up about evil and unrighteousness in the world. After all, our Savior wasn’t shy in calling out people for their hypocrisy and wrong beliefs. Yet even a cursory examination of His actions show how He did this is often different from the methods of many Christians today.

His approach, especially to sinners, was rarely to condemn and always to save. Whether with the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, calling a tax collector as an Apostle, or bringing salvation to the house of Zacchaeus, Jesus’ interaction with sinners was gentle, compassionate and understanding.

When things are going wrong, we can’t sit idly by and use “let God deal with it” as an excuse to avoid putting our faith into action. We can’t slip away and pretend it’s not happening. When injustice is being done, not speaking up about it and not acting to bring about justice (if possible) is clearly sin. Indeed, “the only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Yet what constitutes evil, and what actions we should take — those are questions we each need to carefully consider. No one person is called to deal with everything. Even Jesus didn’t try to fix all the world’s problems (He didn’t even attempt to deal with the most “pressing” challenge of his people: the Roman occupation) and neither are we called to.

So I think the balance for me is always to speak up when faced with injustice or unrighteousness, but to do so carefully, with consideration, compassion and clarity. Take some time to process, investigate and establish truth. Think through what you say, and strive to make it helpful, build up the church, bless mankind, and give glory to God.

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