Peaceful and passive.
Two words I hear thrown around a lot these days. I try to think of the difference by imagining two different dads.
Passive: the dad who doesn’t come come to the school play, or stick up for you when you’re being bullied, or give up drinking when the courts want to take you away.
Peaceful: Atticus Finch.
And what worries me is that my generation tends to preach peace, but practice passivity. Somehow, we’ve come to think that anything serious, convicting or (heaven forbid) offensive is hostile and un-Christ-like. Don’t speak your opinion about politics, because we want people to make personal decisions. Don’t draw attention to the needs of those in Africa, because that might make someone feel guilty about their lifestyle in America. Don’t give feedback because that could start a disagreement.
Use your voice to talk about the weather and your favorite recipes, use Instagram to share pictures of your rain-washed windows, but don’t stamp anything down, don’t express anything solid, don’t take a stand. We use the excuse of trying not to judge others in order to protect ourselves from judgement.
The silence itself can feel like judging at times, you know? The absolute quiet during times of turmoil. The still, when the world needs someone to simply hold out their hand and say “peace” aloud.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but having an opinion isn’t a sin. And voicing it isn’t either. If you can accept that this isn’t a sin and that isn’t a sin, why not accept what I do with my words as holy too? Why not open your mouth and join the conversation once in a while? If not, we’re at risk of becoming part of the bystander effect.
I know that Facebook is loud and Twitter is whiny. I know people are plain mean sometimes. I know we judge and mock and laugh and sneer. I know. Sometimes silence is golden. But sometimes your voice is vital.
Scripture tells us not to have an unhealthy craving for controversy, quarreling about words and creating constant friction. (1 Timothy 6:4-5) It tells us to have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies, for they only create quarreling. (2 Timothy 2:23) This kind of behavior is contrasted with kindness and gentleness (Titus 3:2)
Does this then mean to keep our mouths shut at all times? To never voice an opinion, at least not in public? To avoid offending another at all costs?
At risk of diminishing the point I wanted to make with the scripture above, that holding one’s tongue is so often the best thing to do, I want to defend the defensive for a moment. I want to express my opinion about expressing opinions. I want to voice something about voice. (You get the idea…)
The apostles were often our examples of screwing up. Jesus called them out on multiple occasions. Think about that for a moment. Jesus called people out. He also tore through the temple violently removing the business people and completely chewed the church leaders out, calling them vipers. But the apostles were also examples of living in the light of Christ. Paul, when he had turned from sin and began following Christ, continued to have a loud and bold personality. He preached until he was arrested and then preached in prison and then immediately preached in public again when he was released. In Galatians 2:11 we hear that he “opposed Peter to his face” in front of a crowd of people…Peter who so loved our Lord and tried to honor him with his life.
Though we are asked to be humble, we are also asked to be bold. Though we are asked to lead a quiet life, we are also warned against putting our lamp under a basket when we’re supposed to keep it on a stand.
God gave us the truth in scripture and we’re taught that it is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. He also reveals new things to each of us throughout our days on earth. With kindness and gentleness, I believe we are meant to spread this truth. With much love, we are equipped to express ourselves to one another and even reprove one another for the furthering of the kingdom. This is part of our freedom in Christ, part of our calling.
So hipsters. Instagrammers. Tweeters. Me: Don’t confuse foolish quarreling with sharing what God is teaching you. Don’t confuse peace with passivity. Don’t confuse a quiet life with a dangerous silence. For perhaps God gave you your voice, your thoughts, your opportunities for such a time as this.