Rarely a day goes by (and sometimes an hour) that I don’t receive personal criticism through Twitter, email, Facebook, or some other medium. I have chosen to speak publicly on controversial topics like religion and sexuality, and so I have come to expect it. But to be honest, it still wears on me.
As a result, there’s a temptation to stop speaking out. These kinds of questions sometimes go through my mind: Why not let someone else do it? Do you really have the time? Will it negatively affect my relationships? Staying silent would be much easier.
And yet there are a few reasons I simply cannot stay silent:
1. The Apostles Spoke with Boldness: Even though they were threatened, beaten, and thrown in prison, the apostles refused to stop speaking about the name of Jesus. In Acts 5, the apostles were freed from prison and strictly told to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. But Peter replies, “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29). In other words, Peter feared God more than he feared the disapproval of people.
2. Truth Sets People Free: Even though many people reject it, the Christian worldview is what brings spiritual freedom. And this is not merely a spiritual freedom divorced from the material realm. Following the Christian worldview in all areas of life—work, relationships, finances, etc.—is what brings real freedom in this life in spite of the individualistic and feelings-based mantra our culture proclaims. This is why, in his excellent book We Cannot Be Silent, Albert Mohler argues that speaking truth is often the compassionate thing to do.
3. Speaking Out Helps Us Discover Truth: I do my homework before speaking out publicly. But nevertheless, I have discovered helpful pushback from friends and critics alike that has caused me to change my mind on a number of issues. If I hadn’t spoken out publicly, I may would not have gained a greater understanding of the truth. It’s tempting to avoid speaking out for fear of public correction. But shouldn’t we have a greater desire to discover truth than to preserve our ignorance? Do your homework and make your case. If you discover that you were wrong, then change!
4. Truth Helps Drown Out Lies: There is so much nonsense today being discussed on social media and being passed off as true and important. There is endless “fake news.” Part of the reason I post is to try and help drown out the “noise” with discussion about what matters. I don’t claim to have a corner on truth. As I said above, I am happy to change my mind if I am mistaken. But drowning out unimportant stories (often motivated for clicks) is part of what motives me to speak out.
5. You Can Make a Difference: It is easy to get discouraged today and to stop speaking up. After all, so many things are outside our control. Along with the critical comments, I also receive many comments from people who appreciate my speaking and writing ministry. My point is not to bring attention to myself, but simply to emphasize that it’s possible to make a positive contribution today. Don’t believe the lie: You can make a difference in someone’s life. But it won’t happen unless you speak up.
It is easy to fall prey to the “voices” encouraging Christians to stay silent. After all, speaking up is a risk, and it takes time to do it well. Nevertheless, if you are willing to do your homework, if you are genuinely motivated by love, and if you are willing to follow truth wherever it leads, then please speak up. If you won’t, who will?
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.
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