I was watching news reports this week as they filmed protests against racial injustice in the days following the murder of George Floyd. One protestor was holding a sign that said, “Silence is violence.” I wonder how you feel about that. I agree with the message on that sign. Yet I know that I have been silent too often. Speaking up can be hard for me. As we learned this week in our study of Acts 14 (starting here), though, we Christians are called to speak up. Paul and Barnabas gave us an excellent example to follow. We should not be silent.
So I am wondering if you might try an experiment with me. Try bringing Jesus into as many of your conversations as possible for the next few weeks, and watch what happens. See how people respond.
Seriously. I invite you to try speaking up. First because we should be people who speak up for the ways of Jesus. We Christians believe that Jesus’ way is absolutely the best possible life, right? Jesus himself called it abundant life. And on top of that we believe that true disciples of Jesus also have the hope of eternal life in heaven with him. So shouldn’t we be speaking up all the time anyway? We speak up because we believe that He brings good news!
But also, it is important that we speak up about Jesus so we can learn how people might respond. Of course, when you talk about Jesus, do so with words, tone and body language consistent with the fruit of the Spirit: lovingly, joyously, graciously, with patience, kindness and gentleness. It’s like what communication scientists have been telling us for ages. How you say something is far more important than what you say.
As you consider your practice of speaking up, I also want to ask you to evaluate how you have been communicating already. For example, how have you handled quarantine? Yes, it has been long and difficult in many ways. But given how you have handled it, based on your public statements, whether in person or social media, would people think that the fruit of Spirit is flowing from you? Would they think, “Wow, that Christian stuff is the real deal. Look at the difference it makes to be a Jesus-follower during a difficult time”? Or has something negative and dispiriting been flowing from you? Hear me on this, we should be honest about our struggles, but even in that struggle we can choose to be thankful and look for good.
Christians, let us be people who speak up.
Tell your story. Talk about the beautiful way that Jesus has impacted you and changed you. Talk about the love Jesus has for all. When you see injustice and evil, then, too, speak up, confronting it, but with love and kindness.
Show the world around you who Jesus is, what his heart cares about, and then give him credit for why you care about that too. Are you bothered by what you are seeing in the news, the way other human beings (people who loved by God and fellow bearers of the image of God) are being treated? Why does it bother you? Is it because you know it is wrong and that it also hurts God’s heart? Speak up! Say it is wrong and say you know it also hurts God’s heart. Bring God into the conversations about why you believe what you do. When you speak up against injustice, talk about how Jesus is opposed to injustice.
Ask God to show you what breaks his heart, and be willing to effectively, persistent and boldly share God and his heart with others. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say and to fill you more and more with the fruit of the Spirit. Knowing that even that act of working to see the world the way God does, and of doing the work to be filled more and more with the fruit of the Spirit, could bring hardships along with it. But keep speaking up. He is good and his ways are so good. They are the best ways and bring joy and abundant living along with them.