When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up
In the Bible the Apostle Paul wrote, "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong."1
People have asked, "When we speak out against others we believe are in the wrong, are we being judgmental?" This is a good question to ask and a lot harder to know the right answer. However, remember that on more than one occasion Jesus condemned the religious Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Also, the Apostle Paul rebuked Peter when he felt he was in the wrong.
So when is it right for us to speak out and when do we need to keep silent? How do we know we aren't projecting our own unresolved issues onto other people? Or when someone attacks us personally, when do we need to turn the other cheek, and when do we need to stand up and confront? Or when we see wrong in society, business, or politics, should we speak out or should we look the other way and say nothing?
When people attacked Jesus personally and accused him falsely, he remained silent and was totally non-defensive because he had nothing to hide. However, when people misused the house of God and used people for their own ends, or tried to hide their hypocrisy behind a facade of false religion, or loved their man-made rigid rules more than they loved people, Jesus spoke out against them in no uncertain terms.
The bottom line is motive. Jesus always did what he did because he loved God and he loved people. He attacked evil head-on because it was so destructive of those whom he loved—us! Furthermore, Jesus always spoke with authority but was never authoritarian, rigid, controlling, or manipulative because he had nothing in his own life he needed to hide.
What we need to do if we are going to make a difference in our society is, first of all, to acknowledge our own shortcomings and, with God's help, work at overcoming these. Second, we need to love the things God loves and hate the things he hates and speak out against these as Jesus did. These are the things we need to be angry at too. We simply cannot love righteousness without hating and opposing unrighteousness.
Meekness is not weakness and let us not forget the words of Edmund Burke who said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please continue to purify my motives and give me the insight to know when to keep silent, when to be non-defensive, and give me the courage to speak out against evil when I see it. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Galatians 2:11 (NIV).