Practicing Speaking for Christ
By Dianne E. Butts-
In a recent online discussion, Christians asked how should we respond to people suffering like those in Japan after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power incident? Many said we should “just listen” in compassionate silence. Others said we should not quote Scripture. Why? Because we only offer weak platitudes.
Are those our only two options: silence or platitudes?
It seems to me Christians have become far too practiced in silence.
This topic has really become personal to me since the flare ups of war in the Middle East and the natural disasters in Japan. Some may disagree, but I can’t help but think the Lord’s return isn’t far off. We may have precious little time left and I want to make the biggest impact possible for the Kingdom of Christ and bring as many people as possible into Christ’s Kingdom in the time I have left on this earth. Are you with me? Then how are we going to accomplish it?
We start, of course, with prayer: that God will place people in our paths and place us in situations where we can make a difference for Him. But what’s next? Well, we’re going to have to speak up and talk to those people. I’m all for the popular thought by Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” But there comes a time when we need to use words: to challenge wrong thoughts about God, to explain how to accept Christ. It is here, I think, many Christians are terribly unpracticed.
So, I’ve decided it’s time to practice.
After deciding that, there I was the other day visiting with people after a meeting and one man starts speaking his opinion of Christianity. It’s not the first time. I remember a similar conversation when we first met a few years ago. The other day he said a lot of the Christian values the United States has are actually from Rome, like “majority rule.” I told him, “‘Majority rule’ is not a ‘Christian value.’ I’ve never heard that called a ‘Christian value’ before.” He went silent for a while, changed the subject, spoke to others who were there. But before we left he turned back to me and said he still remembered that conversation we had a few years ago and what I said then. I do remember he had pushed me far enough that I started spouting back. (And you have to push me pretty far to get me there!) But what did I say?!
So I said to him, “Uh oh. What did I say?”
He reminded me in that conversation, when he said something about Christians, I said, “I don’t know any Christians who think like that. And I know a lot of Christians.” Then he said something else and I said, “I don’t know any Christians who believe that.” And he said something again and I said, “I don’t know any Christians who act like that.”
He said, “You made me realize I’ve been putting Christians in a box and I shouldn’t because some of them aren’t like what I thought.”
I had no idea I’d spoken up in a good way, let alone said something that made a difference to him, that challenged his thinking, that made him rethink what his understanding of Christian is.
Since then, I’ve only felt bolder about speak up more often. Lord knows, I need the practice.
“But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19, NIV).