Knowledge is power. Isn’t that what they’ve always taught us? Perhaps it really is, because censorship and silencing people has been used as a tactic for control by authorities since the world began.
Long before ‘cancelling’ people, long before McCarthy or the Nazis, or the Inquisition even, ‘dangerous’ people and ideas were silenced in the name of order and control. Jesus and His disciples learned that the hard way.
However, as Christians, we are commanded to ‘go and tell’ the world about Jesus and to make disciples, plant churches and change the world one heart at a time. Spreading the Word of God has never been an easy nor safe task. If you consider the prophets and their tribulations, or Jesus and His tribulations, or Paul and Peter and their tribulations, you see that following this command has its risks. Then again, for Americans in the 21st Century, it has probably never been easier nor safer to spread the Gospel than now. Thanks to laws protecting free speech and freedom of religion we are largely protected from persecution. Thanks to the internet, email and texting we can share our message nearly anywhere in the world from the comfort of our homes.
Still, it can be uncomfortable to have those conversations. Religion is a hard topic to bring up with company, or at the grocery store, or the kids’ sporting events – and definitely at work. A few negative responses can have a real chilling effect on our desire to witness to others, even when we know the great value and importance of it.
As we were doing our Wednesday night Bible Study, we read of an account of Paul during his missionary trips. Spoiler alert: nearly every chapter begins with Paul entering a city, going to the Synagogue, preaching the Good News of the Messiah, attracting huge crowds, inspiring the jealousy of the local Jews, and being attacked, jailed or worse. We commented on the amount of faith it would take to keep going in the face of these obstacles. And then we read:
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” Acts 18:9-10
At that moment, I felt that the Lord was speaking to all of us -- believers in the 21st Century. Yes, we may get strange looks, uncomfortable silences, even mean remarks and derision. But it’s unlikely we’ll be chased out of town and beaten, nor hauled off by an angry mob or even dragged before the authorities. If we share our faith on Facebook, some may ‘unfriend’ us. If we share on Twitter, some may tweet back nasty remarks. If we wear a Jesus t-shirt some may be offended. If you read your Bible in the breakroom at work, some might start to avoid you.
But in this world wracked by anxiety, violence, addictions, despair, greed and pride, those are a small price to pay if those simple actions start a conversation that leads to a conversion. We have to keep on speaking. We cannot be silent because the world needs us. This country needs us. Our community needs us. That man at the gas pump needs us. That senior in the checkout line needs us. That frazzled mom needs us. That parent of an addict needs us. That teen contemplating ending it all needs us. Even the mockers and scoffers need us. As Pastor Bill says, ‘We are Plan A, and there is no Plan B.’
As the Holy Spirit moves, let us be awake and aware enough to feel His leading and with the courage of Paul, the faith of Peter and the compassion of Christ, let us speak wonderful words of life into everyone we cross paths with. Remember, He is with us always, even to the end of the age.