Recently I was caught up in the dilemma of knowing that someone had cheated during a final exam, and not knowing what to do about it.
Why is it so hard to speak up?
In general, I shudder at the thought of being labeled a “tattle tale.” As a kid my favorite phrase was, “but that’s not fair!” and, over the years, I saw how those words created distance between me and my family and friends. Recently I have drifted in the opposite direction, becoming hesitant to say anything at all.
I wasn’t the only student that this person cheated off of. So, not only was I angry and hurt that I was his victim, but I was also burdened with the knowledge that others were too. The main question I kept running into was what would telling the professor even do? It seemed to me that it would only hurt the cheater by creating the opportunity for him to be disciplined, and it’s not like I was physically hurt by his cheating or anything.
To be very honest, I still don’t know whether or not telling the professor about what happened was the best thing to do. However, one good that came from the whole incident is that it forced me to ask myself the question: “Why is it so hard to speak up?”
As I pursued this question, I realized that many of the reasons I am hesitant to speak up about injustice in situations like the one I just mentioned also explain why I am hesitant to speak up about my faith when given opportunities for evangelism. All of the reasons pointed to the same thing: I was afraid.
What are you afraid of?
The primary fear that kept me from immediately reporting the cheating incident was my pride, or the fear of being wrong. I was afraid to report the cheating because I was afraid that doing so would be childish, inappropriate or pointless. I don’t think that I am afraid to share my faith because I doubt that it is true; rather, I am afraid that it will be inappropriate.
My anxiety about the appropriateness, or inappropriateness, of both situations reveals a deeper fear that I have: the fear of man. Undervaluing God’s opinion of myself and overvaluing man’s opinion has made me more concerned about breaking a social taboo than about faithfully sharing the truth.
What do you value the most?
One of the main reasons why people (myself included) experience a disconnect between the things that they believe and their willingness to speak up about them is because their day to day actions do not testify to what they value the most. If I’m not living like Jesus is my Lord on a daily basis, then of course telling a stranger that He is will feel inappropriate. In a similar way, if taking a stand against injustice isn’t something that I have to do on a regular basis, then, naturally, it will be kind of scary when I finally have to.
Matthew 10:32 says, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (ESV)
In this passage, Jesus is very frank about the importance of acknowledging our faith, both by our words and through our actions. Since understanding is foundational to belief, one step you can take towards better proclaiming the truth is meditating on who Christ is in relation to who we, and the rest of the world, are.
Christ is the incarnate Son of God who, through the great love of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, humbled himself here on earth, suffering and dying on the cross in order to pay the debt for our sins. This is the miraculous truth that has saved us. This is the miraculous truth that we have the privilege of proclaiming. We are the treasurers of this glorious truth, which the rest of the world is in desperate need of. Before we can proclaim what we believe, we must first understand what we believe and, then, live in accordance with those beliefs.
Given the love of our Heavenly Father, the goodness of our Savior, the miraculousness of the truth we possess, and others’ undeniable need to know it, how can we possibly keep silent? The next time you are given the opportunity to share your faith, take a look at your life and see whether or not your actions are proclaiming the same truth.