When to Speak Out and When to Act Out

When to Speak Out and When to Act Out

I’ve been outspoken my entire life. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself in the principal’s office at the Christian schools I attended growing up. They told me “God loves good little boys who stay silent and do what they are told.” I didn’t agree. I kept speaking out. I was certain that the more I said, the more I’d be heard.

I’ve been hearing lots of talk lately about how important it is for Christians to speak out against injustice. I totally agree with this talk. Christians need to stand up and speak out for the oppressed.

But here’s where it gets tricky. It’s really easy to get confused between speaking out against injustice and speaking out against our own personal preferences. The two tend to get muddled for me. Which is probably why I was in the principal’s office so much. Any time I saw something I didn’t like I was certain it was injustice I needed to fight. So I started yelling. Eventually people just labeled me as annoying and obnoxious.

Paul says that in our current human state “we see through a glass, darkly…”.(1 Cor. 13:12) I’m sure that has layers of meaning, but I think the most obvious thing it means is we all have a limited perspective on things – we have a hard time seeing the whole picture because of our own human limits. We get confused a lot.

So, here’s where I’m trying to go with this. We need to speak out against injustice. But we also need to recognize that if you speak out against everything you don’t like, all the time, people will stop listening – they’ll just say you are annoying.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the better option is to stay quiet and get busy doing something about the injustice. Let your actions do the talking. Start personally helping the homeless. Pay for someone’s groceries. Go make friends with people who are hurting. Build relationships that foster racial reconciliation. It’s way more fun to yell and rant, and it gets you more attention. But if you are truly worried about fighting injustice then attention shouldn’t be your goal – effective action should be. And you can take action without yelling.

Let’s all stand up against injustice. But let’s use our words conservatively and our life-giving actions liberally.

…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matt. 5:16