Since my controversial post last week, a number of people reached out with a message that went something like this, “Ezra, I agree with what you’re saying and think it’s important but I don’t feel I’m in the best position to share what you said publicly.”
This is a common dilemma and it got me thinking, when should we speak up and when should we shut up?
Here are a couple points to consider.
1. Know Your Audience
I wrote on Christian Nationalism because I thought it was a message I could share and was one The Monday Christian audience might find helpful. Would I have written the same post if I were a pastor of a congregation with numerous “Christian Nationalist” members? Probably not, because I would have taken a more personal approach and tried to have a series of conversations, led small groups, or provided a more personal forum for dialogue.
I assume that the reason most people follow The Monday Christian is because they want their faith to be challenged. They are committed to some form of spiritual growth and will be able to receive controversial content with an open mind.
2. Check Your Motives
It’s something I think of often in relation to podcasts, writing books, and public speaking. The line between wanting to make a difference and self-promotion can be so thin.
A good question I try to ask myself when taking a stand is, what is my end goal? Is it to gain a following or solidify a base? Is it because I enjoy stirring the pot? Or could it be because there is some air of superiority I hold that likes to point out the flaws in others? These are all questions I try to wrestle with before speaking out.
3. Keep Your Voice Consistent
There are some friends of mine that do this well. Some consistently say nothing. For them, social media is not the place to tackle controversial topics and instead choose to do so through personal interactions. Others only touch major world events. And then there are some of my friends who speak out on every issue. Even though I’d share my differences with all the people that came to mind, I respect their views because they are consistent.
This is just my opinion but if you’ve held back from making few, if any, criticisms of President Trump, it’s going to be tough for people outside your camp to hear what you have to say on issues you might have with the Biden administration. The reverse is true. If you are committed to pointing out every issue you have with Trump, fine. But when a Biden/Harris administration starts taking steps that are out of alignment with Christian values, you should be prepared to speak up.
Come to think of it, that’s my issue with this whole social media ban. I could care less if private companies like Twitter or Facebook want to ban people like Donald Trump from their platform. But the challenge myself and many others have is the inconsistency that allows leaders like the Ayatollah of Iran to remain where Trump cannot. Don’t be like that. Be consistent.
4. Make Sure Your Message Does Not Become Your God
Recently, I wrote a book that comes out in February titled Walking with a Limp. It details a several year journey I experienced going through a dark valley of depression. Recently, I went on my friend Mark Cravens’ Hope Along the Journey podcast (subscribe and leave a review btw!) and shared my story. Because I experienced what I experienced, I enjoy sharing with others because this is a message of hope I think God has given me. Through numerous interactions, I have had the opportunity to offer some form of encouragement. Just did this the other night in fact. But, in an odd sense, it is easy to make depression my idol.
The problem arises when this message consumes my ideals and becomes the only lens through which I share the gospel. Obviously, no person went through the same experiences I faced. Some have gone through less painful situations but many others have gone through much more painful hardships. And it’s easy to take one issue where we believe we have the moral high ground and use it as a platform to cast shade on everyone who does not measure up – never pausing to think about all of the ways we fall short.
From a personal standpoint, there was a time when it was tough for me to hear someone make a comment like, “Oh, depression, that’s just one of those things that people have when their life isn’t in order.” It was tough to hear because I know what that struggle is like. But there is this passage in Ecclesiastes 7:21 I love. King Solomon instructs, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.”
In other words, stop taking yourself so seriously. When people offend you, respond with grace, remembering the times you have offended others. Use your pain to point others to Christ. Do not use Christ to point others to your pain. Don’t let it become your God.
5. Be Gracious and Keep the Door Open.
I hope I do this, but sometimes I fall short. In my desire to be right I find myself dismissing people I do not understand. But my goal is to keep the door of conversation open.
There is an unfortunate cultural trend with people of my generation to discount all that our parents and grandparents did to make us who we are. We tend to judge the previous generation by today’s standards, and this creates all sorts of superiority complexes. We are, as it were, enlightened people. Our political views, lifestyle views, and educational views are all better…or are they?
To be blunt, one of the reasons I want to extend grace to my parent’s generation is because I want my kids to be gracious with me! I don’t want to live life as a constant cynic, paving the way for my kids to use this same behavior against me. I want to sow good seeds.
As Rick Warren once noted, it’s an odd paradox that often the people who talk about grace the most can be the least gracious.
6. Accept What You Get
I live by the rule that if you post it, you generally deserve what you get. I grow tired of Christians who love writing controversial posts and then grow agitated with anyone who disagrees with them (and this point is not up for discussion!). If you launch a grenade, prepare to receive some return fire. Taking that a step further, I believe it is then your duty to do what you can to respond in a Christlike manner.
It’s funny. I used to gloss over words like gentleness and patience in Scripture. But when I go back and look at the people who were told to be gentle and patient and the people they were told to be gentle and patient towards, I gain fresh perspective.
Just because you can speak up doesn’t mean you should. Know your audience, check your motives, stay consistent, hold your message loosely, be gracious, and accept what you get.
*If there is something I missed, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What motivates you to speak up or stay silent?