As I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s open season on conservative Christians. Over the past year I’ve “unfollowed” a number of Facebook so-called friends because I got tired of being attacked. I know that none of it was personal, but it still hurt. Deciding that I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life, I stopped exposing myself to it.
But then I started wondering. When is it appropriate to speak up?
This is a hard decision. For one, God is amply able to take care of His own reputation. Witness the deaths of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3. All they did was try to worship God in the way they wanted, rather than the way He had commanded them, and they wound up toast. Literally. And what does God tell Moses to tell Aaron?
“Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.”
There are other examples—Uzzah’s death while David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13) comes to mind.
So God doesn’t need me to defend Him. Yet, He does care about His reputation. Moses is successfully able to argue against the destruction of the Israelites because He points out that it would make God look unreliable. (See Exodus 32:9-14.)
But how about defending believers? I wondered, what if all those mean-spirited jokes were aimed at another group? What if they were disparaging blacks? Or Jews? Or Hindus, Muslims, or Buddhists? Wouldn’t I speak up then? Yes, and so would a lot of other people, Christians and non-Christians. That kind of bigotry is unacceptable.
Yet, Jesus didn’t reply to his accusers. Should we? How do I know when I should object and stand up for God and his followers, and when it’s better to simply turn the other cheek?
I struggled with this question for months, but this morning I finally came to a conclusion, at least for me: I can’t sit silently and watch someone spread hate. I need to say something. Part of this decision came from something I read yesterday, in Leviticus of all places.
Leviticus 5:1 says,
If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.
I suppose you could make the case that this doesn’t apply to a nasty comment on Facebook, but I know when the Holy Spirit is convicting me of something. Speaking up doesn’t come easily for me. I’m very much a “don’t rock the boat” kind of person.” The fact that I was squirming was a good indication that business as usual wasn’t going to please God.
So today, when I saw a “joke” that essentially called conservative Christians both stupid and hateful (in this case, homophobic), I spoke up.
It wasn’t comfortable. I started by praying—a lot! First I asked if God really wanted me to comment. Yes, He did. Then I asked what words I should use. He reminded me that gentleness was a fruit of the Spirit, and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s not loving to strike out and hurt someone back because they’d hurt me.
I thought about Jesus, coming to earth to show us the Father. What would He have said?
In the end, what I wrote wasn’t perfect. I might have phrased it better. I probably could have been kinder. I’m not good at confrontation, and this was pretty much a first attempt. Still, I said something, and hopefully opened some eyes to how hateful they were being, even if it was unintentional. What would you have said?