The irony is not lost on this author.
In this post I will share my opinion, stating my opinion that sharing opinions is overrated.
And I will publish it on a blog dedicated to giving people a forum for sharing their opinions.
As a young minister, I soon learned the truth of a quip that someone — I think it might have been Vance Havner — once made. He said that when people start complaining that the church ought to do something about a matter, they usually mean the pastor ought to say something.
For many Christians, words equal deeds.
Our measure of faithfulness is often described as “taking a stand” for one’s faith or for the right position on some issue. That means being willing to speak up and tell the truth, to take a public stand by saying something when you might be tempted to remain silent. If someone does that, he or she is considered a strong, vibrant follower of Jesus.
I don’t claim to know about other people around the world, but this seems to me to be another one of those peculiarly American characteristics with regard to how we think we should live out our faith. It is part of our personality. We are, by and large, an opinionated, outspoken people. And so we view Christian living through this lens. Christianity is about truth. Christian living means telling the truth. Boldly. Directly. Without shame. As we discussed in a recent post, Christians are constantly being told, “The most loving thing you can do is tell the truth.”
This has become our standard for faithful Christian living. The believer who speaks up for truth and right is the one we honor. The current climate, dominated by 24-hour news, Facebook and other social media, and other means of instant communication, has only exacerbated the tendency to equate words — even knee-jerk, disembodied words over a computer screen — with being upright and devoted to the Lord.
We’re not just talking about preachers here. Certainly many expect this from the pulpit. In fact, a large number of folks don’t even consider preaching to have occurred if sin is not strongly condemned, the moral evils of our culture excoriated, and strong opinions about one’s interpretation of doctrine advanced. But the same parishioners who endure the preachy preachers are are also being challenged themselves to be verbally engaged in the battle for truth. Witness. Testify. Say so. Tell the truth. Talk the talk. Take a stand. Be bold. Be unashamed. Open your mouth wide, and the Lord will fill it.
Overdone and overrated.
Certainly what we speak, and how we speak, and when we speak is an important part of our lives and our faith. The “Gospel” itself is an announcement to be proclaimed, discussed, explained, and shared in appropriate ways at appropriate times. The prophetic tradition of which we are heirs was made up of men and women specially chosen to hear and speak God’s word of righteousness as they called Israel to return to the Law and covenant. Christians take truth seriously.
We also have to take our culture into account. In free lands of the world like the U.S., we are afforded rights of free expression unknown throughout most of history. Because of the very nature of our free society, we will have opportunities to speak more, and perhaps we should.
Nevertheless, I worry about this undue emphasis on verbal Christianity.
I’ve engaged with many who think my concern is misplaced. However, if someone argues that the world is not shy about getting its immoral and idolatrous messages out and therefore we should be redoubling our efforts to speak and speak often on behalf of righteousness, I would counter with the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power” (1Cor. 4:20).
In context, Paul was explaining to the Corinthians that the false teachers leading them astray were “all talk.” On the other hand, he had sent Timothy to them on a personal, pastoral visit, and soon Paul would coming himself. Then the congregants in Corinth would see the difference. Paul’s words and even his letters were not the ultimate measure of his ministry. It was the “power” of Christ in him that shone through his personal presence, his pastoral care, and his involvement in their lives that would prove the difference. That would certainly involve words, but so much more. In the passage, he describes himself as their spiritual “father” (4:14-16), a vocation that goes far beyond speaking — all the way to love.
Others will argue that they are not speaking “the opinions of people” but the Word of God. They have chapter and verse to prove it. Please. Verbal-oriented Christianity so easily turns into opinionated Christianity.
“Speaking the truth” gets transformed into stating my opinion or interpretation of some “truth” or issue.
“Sharing the Gospel” becomes trying to persuade others of my doctrine and/or practice.
Those who “engage the culture” end up turning complex issues into simple black and white moral choices.
“Taking a stand” too often means not listening well to others and considering that any spirit of forbearance or compromise indicates surrender and defeat for God and his truth.
“Speaking up boldly” can indicate zeal without knowledge and the humility to own that what we don’t know far exceeds our current conclusions.
There is a place and time and way to speak.
This is the day to share my opinion about that.
Now it’s your turn.