Citizens under arrest are given their Miranda rights, which include “the right to remain silent.” Citizens of God’s kingdom have no Miranda rights. With so much at stake, Christians do not have “the right to remain silent” (cf. 2 Kings 7:9). T. B. Larimore used to say, “I would be afraid to be ashamed and ashamed to be afraid.”[1] One said, “Silence is sometimes golden, but it can be just plain yellow.”

Silence is a sin when a brother has gone astray (Galatians 6:1).

How many have been converted or placed membership with a congregation, attended for a time, but then began to attend sporadically? Finally, they quit coming altogether. Jesus gave a parable about a shepherd that applies in such instances. The shepherd went out to find the wandering sheep and brought it safely home (Luke 15:4–7). As God’s shepherds, elders should seek lost sheep (Hebrews 13:17), but they are not alone in this responsibility. The rule should be that those who are most likely to be successful in winning them back should be most active in seeking them. This will usually be their friends and Bible teachers. Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

Silence is a sin when the defenseless need a voice (James 1:27).

Pure religion involves caring about the vulnerable in society (James 1:27). The church “ought to support the weak” (Acts 20:35; Romans 14:1) and “plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3–4). “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet” (Isaiah 58:1). “Speak, and exhort, and rebuke” (Titus 2:15).

Edmund Burke observed, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In WWII Germany, there were two kinds of churches: “Silent Churches” that said nothing against the atrocities of the Third Reich; and “Praying, Confessing Churches.” As part of the second group, Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) emerged as an outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler. He was eventually arrested and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Congregations today also can be silent churches or “praying, confessing” churches. Since “we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel,” “we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). It takes courage to be politically incorrect on pressing social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, divorce, drinking, and gambling.

Abortion, for instance, is a travesty of unspeakable proportion, yet many churches are completely silent on it. Pharaoh, Herod the Great, and Hitler, combined murdered only a few compared to the 58.5 million American babies killed since 1973. One can be fined up to $100,000 and spend one year in prison for tampering with a turtle’s egg, or $250,000 or two years of in prison for crushing an eagle’s egg, but one can get rich performing abortions (about $97,920/year).

Paul preached, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27). To be free from the bloodshed in our day, we must speak against violence, greed, and abuse.

As premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced the atrocities of Joseph Stalin. Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, a heckler interrupted him, saying, “You were one of Stalin’s colleagues. Why didn’t you stop him?”

“Who said that?” roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed. Nobody in the crowd dared move a muscle. Then Khrushchev replied, “Now you know why.”[2]

Silence is a sin when a sinner needs the gospel (Mark 16:15).

A thought-provoking old hymn says,

When in the better land before the bar we stand,
How deeply grieved our souls will be;
If any lost one there should cry in deep despair,
“You never mentioned Him to me.”

CHORUS: You never mentioned Him to me,
You helped me not the way to see;
You met me day by day and knew I was astray,
Yet never mentioned Him to me.

O let us spread the word where’er it may be heard,
Help groping souls the light to see;
That yonder none may say, “You showed me not the way.”
“You never mentioned Him to me.”

A few sweet words may guide a lost one to His side,
Or turn sad eyes on Calvary;
So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry,
“You never mentioned Him to me.”

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[1] Letters and Sermons of T.B. Larimore. http://www.stillvoices.org/SharedFiles/Download.aspx?pageid=19&mid=28&fileid=239.

[2] Today in the Word, July 13, 1993.

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