Silence is Evil | Part 1

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” | Luke 10:30-37

I can go on telling you how God wants you to care for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1-8), to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27), to be a voice for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8), to care about the dignity of those who are his image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), and how God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8). But I won’t do that. We know scripture calls us to seek justice. 

But if we’re being honest,
many of us do not seek justice.

We usually do not go further than feeling momentary sadness for those who experience injustice.  We may talk about it briefly, but not feel convicted enough to do something about it.

Maybe we believe we care, but we do not want to get involved in those messes. Getting involved can provide inconveniences or potential problems that would interfere with our lives. Helping others might come with a price we are not willing to pay. 

It is safe to be silent and not get
entangled with others’ problems.
But our silence speaks volumes. 

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” | Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I saw how scripture cared for those who faced injustice. So I worked for different non-profit organizations that dealt with injustice. I felt really good about myself.  But sometimes I would not always take the time to help those who were in need.

I would tell myself, “I am tired,” or, “I don’t want to get involved with this—it could get real messy and become a burden.” I believed I had done enough. That I sought justice. But I just did things that were comfortable and convenient. I did a lot of work but was silent.

I didn’t realize how painful and
evil my silence was until
I experienced it first hand.

My friend and I were very involved in a ministry. We spent so much of our time and energy establishing it. But we spoke up about things that were going on that were wrong and unbiblical. We learned that others felt the same way, but no one else spoke up.

We had to leave, and we were made to look bad so that the ministry and its leaders would not look bad.  No one else spoke up for us or tried to get involved.

I remember feeling alone and abandoned
by the ones who called us brothers and friends.

But that was immeasurably small compared to learning this past year that multiple friends and family members had been abused during their childhood. Each revelation brought shock. I was shocked that something like that happened, but I was more shocked and confused that they didn’t tell me or others earlier. 

They told me that they told people. But those people didn’t care, or they tried to brush it under the rug. They did not feel like anyone would really care.

This was the same experience
for Rachel Denhollander.

You may remember her from the USA Gymnastics scandal involving the abuse of at least 265 female gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar. Rachel was one of the first girls to bring accusations, but she was ignored. That silence led to hundreds of other athletes being abused. Her testimony at the trial drew national media attention because she extended forgiveness and prayer for Larry Nassar to know true forgiveness from God.

Rachel told the court that speaking up for sexual assault victims “cost me my church and our closest friends.”

She expanded on this later in an interview with Christianity Today:

The reason I lost my church was because we were advocating for other victims of sexual assault within the evangelical community, crimes which had been perpetrated by people in the church and whose abuse had been enabled, very clearly, by prominent leaders in the evangelical community. That is not a message that evangelical leaders want to hear, because it would cost to speak out about the community. It would cost to take a stand against these very prominent leaders, despite the fact that the situation we were dealing with is widely recognized as one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse. What happens when it’s a trusted person at this church? What happens when it’s a trusted person in these other evangelical organizations? The extent that one is willing to speak out against their own community is the bright line test for how much they care and how much they understand.” | Rachel DenHollander

We as the church must not be silent. We must be willing to take on the cost that comes with standing up for those who face injustice. As we have seen with the case of Dr. Nassar and so many other stories, our silence will become much more costly.

Silence is evil.

To those who have felt abandoned and not cared for, we apologize for the silence you experienced. But we pray and hope that you find comfort in the God who knows all about silence. 

He experienced the greatest injustice so that we would be spared judgment.  And in order for that to be fulfilled, Jesus had to be abandoned and hear God’s silence on the cross as he called out:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? | Mathew 27:46

“We fight like Jesus fights, loving righteousness at the cost of our lives, insisting on God’s truth, spreading the good news of his kingdom, and rescuing lost people out of darkness.” | Gloria Furman

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