Alliance News Feed – When, Then, Shall We Speak?
By John Stumbo
When do we speak, and when are we wise to stay silent? When do we address an issue, and when do we let the flurry of verbiage swirl through social media without us weighing in? When do we engage in public discourse, and when do we set our own agenda for the issues we feel more vital to address?
These are the kinds of questions I would hope every Alliance person would ask—but as the president of our Alliance family, I ask them on a regular basis. It seems that in the five years I’ve had the privilege of serving in this role, there has been a constant whirlwind of public debate. Media headlines jump from topic to topic—racism, gun control, LGBTQ rights, global warming, and the sexual misconduct of leaders, just to name a few—with barely a chance to catch our breath in between. As I write this article, the recent rulings of the state of New York further liberalizing abortion laws have fueled more social discourse. And again, the question surfaces: When do I engage—and encourage the Alliance family to engage—in any or all these debates?
As I wrestle with this question, a few principles have arisen that shape my thinking and behavior. Perhaps they will be helpful for you as well.
Public Discourse Principle No. 1: Just because everyone else is talking about it doesn’t mean that I need to.If we’re not careful, our agenda can be completely controlled by CNN, FOX, Facebook, or whatever media source happens to catch our attention. Never before in my leadership have I felt such subtle pressure to make a statement supporting or decrying the issue-of-the-day. There is a time to speak. There is a time to remain silent. I’m giving myself permission for both. I would hope that our Alliance pastors and other leaders would receive the same “permission.” Our pulpits must resonate with the full counsel of the Word of God and not merely be the news media’s puppets.
Public Discourse Principle No. 2: If I do feel that it is time to speak, I must be as aware of my tone as I am of my content. I often find myself agreeing with what another Christian said but felt grieved by the manner in which it was said. In the flurry of debate, fueled by media that increase their income by engaging our emotions, many Christians lose perspective. When speaking out about matters of our faith, the apostle Peter instructs us to do so with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander(I Peter 3:15b-16). Before we hit “send” on the email or post a social media comment, join me as I ask some trusted friend, who isn’t emotionally engaged in the issue, to review what I am about to say. Both the message and the spirit of the message I’m trying to communicate have often been shaped by calmer spirits and sharper minds than my own.
Public Discourse Principle No. 3: Our primary calling is for the church to be holy, not the world to be reformed. I’m very aware that this is a controversial point, but I make it because I believe it is under-discussed among us. Countless Christians have spent countless hours telling the world how it should live. I don’t believe that this is our calling. Undeniably, we are called to be salt and light in the world by our behavior (Matthew 5:13–16). We are called to share the hope that we have in Christ and invite people into a life-giving relationship with Him (1 Peter 3:15). Fundamental to the entire Christian faith is the call to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19–20). I’m not advocating for an enclaved, fortressed form of Christianity that fails to engage the world. But our primary engagement with the world must be loving evangelism (in deed and word) over social reform. Our calls for holy living are appropriate (when authentically matched by a holy life), but these calls should be directed to the church, not the world.
As Paul called the Corinthian church to holiness, he made an essential, but often overlooked, distinction. He inserts, not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world (I Corinthians 5:10). I understand Paul to emphasize that our holiness standards should not be compromised in the church yet not assumed of the world. We should expect the world to act . . . worldly. We shouldn’t be surprised when the laws, leaders, and leanings of a secular society reject scriptural principles. We’re saddened by it. We vote to the contrary. We live above the low standards established by culture. But, as believers, let’s stop wringing our hands when the next cultural move is away from what we hold dear. And, with that, I hasten to the next point.
Public Discourse Principle No. 4: Those of us who have a voice should find appropriate times to use it on behalf of those who do not. I have a position of leadership that gives me opportunity to influence. It is very likely that you do as well. The Proverbs instruct us to Speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9). My statements under point No. 3 need to be held in juxtaposition to point No. 4. Throughout history and today, many peoples find themselves voiceless. They have little or no ability to speak on their own behalf. Others must arise to do so for them. Allow me to list just a few as a sampling of the voiceless:
- Jews during the Holocaust
- Slaves in early American history
- Sex-trafficked children and women today
- The Rohingyas of Myanmar and other such displaced people
- The world’s poor
Those of us who have pulpits, votes, media outlets, and other forms of influence should use these—keeping in mind the principles above—to advocate for the voiceless.
Which brings me back to where I started. At this moment in time, voices need to rise once again on behalf of the unborn. The trajectory that the New York law takes our nation is another major blow to the womb and the life therein. May the church find the tone and the message to speak on behalf of these precious lives who cannot speak for themselves.
The value of human life, born or unborn, is an irrefutable principle of Scripture which I must defend. Within or beyond the womb, there is no point in a child’s life when he or she is an not image bearer of our Creator.
Source: Alliance News Feed – When, Then, Shall We Speak?