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When to Remain Silent: Living in An Overly Opinionated Culture

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

There are moments on social media platforms where I’ve contemplated writing a post that bluntly expresses my political views or ethics… but I haven’t. At least not in the ways I have been tempted to. Don’t misunderstand me, I value truth. I’ve dedicated my life to truth; truth that is divisive to people and not always easy to confront let alone accept.

There are moments in life where I believe it is important to stand up for what is right and to proclaim truth. So what do I mean when I say “Why I remain silent?” My silence has not been a lack of expressing my convictions, rather it has been from trying to be careful to not create further division. I don’t think people realize how divisive they are when they share their political rants (whether left or right winged) on subject matter that they either know too little about, or fail to see that the medium that they are communicating will not have a real, substantive result. Ranting about something is in many cases emotive, ill-thought-out, word vomiting that is megaphoned out to the world through social media.

What would this world look like if instead of criticizing this politician for doing X or this organization for doing Y, we created true dialogue? There are many people that say something like, “If you don’t like what I have to say, you can unfriend me. I don’t care.” I get it, you have to stand for what you believe, but is that really an expression of tolerance? And while I dislike having to use this tired phrase it applies here, is that what Jesus would do?

Jesus stood up to power, yes, but he also knew when to be silent.

Take for example the evening of his arrest. Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin to be questioned. During their examination they were unable to find evidence strong enough—even though they brought in false witnesses—to convict Jesus to death. Just as things seemed to be getting better, two witnesses stood forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days’” (Matthew 26:61). Read what happens next:

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent (Matthew 26:62-63).

Jesus could have spoken up at any one of these instances and put to bed all issues. And if he didn’t want to address anyone, he could have simply sent a host of angels to rescue him and silence the slanders, yet he remained silent in this instance. Why does he do that? Why not prove his innocence or demonstrate his authority? Jesus understood what he was doing. He knew that the people could not be convinced by any reasonable argument, and it’s likely that entertaining it would have only made matters worse. The Sanhedrin was not looking for justice; they were looking for a way to kill Christ. Not much has changed.

The world continues to blast, bash, bully, and ridicule anything that differs in opinion. This is not tolerance. True tolerance is being able to accept other’s differing viewpoints—not being forced to adopt them or if you don’t agree than just unfriend me and go away. But if all you are doing is unloading your beliefs onto the internet or at the dinner table and not thinking of how that will affect someone, then you are not choosing the best avenue to share your beliefs.

Christ knew that speaking up would get him nowhere with this crowd, so he remained silent, but Christ also remained silent because he knew his mission. Christ’s mission wasn’t to win an argument; his mission was to create a pathway for humanity to be redeemed! Winning an argument can amount to very little and is often just two egos battling. You can win an argument and lose the person you were trying to reach. There are too many people trying to win arguments instead of winning people. This needs to stop.

As a pastor, I have a responsibility to help people along their spiritual journey—this is my mission or call in life. And while I may be a conservative both politically and theologically, if I’m not careful in how or when I articulate my viewpoints, I may work against my mission. It is because I care more about preaching the gospel and maintaining that influence that causes my strong views on conservatism to take a secondary seat—at times.

Don’t misinterpret what I am saying. There is a time and place to share truth, but if all I did was criticize political administrations or vegans, I would likely polarize my congregants and lose the influence I desire to maintain. It is my belief that in order to change someone, they need to be transformed by God; it is the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, I want to get out of the way as much as possible in order to help people see the Spirit of the living God. This means sacrificing my ego at times or letting go of an argument—even if I am right!

The world needs us to look past its own ego and care enough to engage in conversation with people who may differ from our own viewpoints.

This does not mean you have to agree with someone else’s version of morality—not at all! Beliefs ought to be shared as well as challenged. It is healthy to engage in dialogue over issues that matter. Speak up when necessary and if injustices are witnessed. However, there is a difference between doing this in a respectful manner that invites conversation as well as change and just trying to share your divisive dissatisfaction that offers no pathway for change or redemptive action. We need to know when to offer our opinions and when to remain silent.

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