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A Time to Speak and a Time Not to Speak

In the wake of the Aurora theater shooting, I noted here on BreakPoint that there is a time to speak and there is a time not to speak. For example, Job’s friends were wonderful in how they dealt with his tragedy until they opened their mouth. When they started to speak, they — according to God’s indictment several chapters later — spoke words without knowledge by trying to offer specific reasons for the evil Job was enduring.

The Apostle Paul was quite clear on what we are to do immediately in the face of tragedy when he said “Mourn with those who mourn.” As Christians, we do have many answers that the outside world lacks — about the source and depth of human evil and the hope of new life in Christ — and when it is appropriate, we ought not be silent. But only when it is appropriate.

There will be time to seek answers about tragedy — to probe the why questions of events like these, but Friday was not that time. And Twitter and Facebook are not that place. And yet, far too predictably, in the face of great grief, tragedy and hurt — people with an axe to grind immediately began grinding. And our social media tools allow us to do it from much more loudly and anonymously, from a completely detached place.

And too many Christians joined the noise by grinding their political, religious and moral axes too loudly and too early.

Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak. We should. And, I am certainly not saying we shouldn’t speak our convictions argue for truth, sin, morality and redemption. We should in time. But immediately lobbing our political or theological verbal bombs via Twitter or Facebook like “This is what happens when you take prayer out of schools” or “It’s not a gun problem, it's a sin problem” or “Here’s another reason to abandon the public schools” is just not something Jesus would have us do.

Speaking comfort, grace, mourning and prayer on Friday? Yes! And Twitter and Facebook might be appropriate places for that. But pontificating and posturing? No. And especially, not for the Christian.

Why do I think this?  Because of the Incarnation that we celebrate next week. God became flesh. God, the creator of all people and all things, invaded the deep depravity and brokenness of this world and our hearts. He did not just hand us a book to read or proclaim moral truths for us to observe. He came Himself.

God made Himself known in Christ as the God willing to enter the suffering of His Creation. And, thirty some years later this same God walking around enters into the suffering of Mary and Martha before raising their brother Lazarus from the dead. He weeps with them.

There is a reason we’re told about the Life of Jesus Christ and not just about his birth and death. His life teaches us that those made new by Christ are asked to do more than just speak this truth at the world. We are asked to, like our Savior, embody truth in the world. Escape is never an option for a Christ-follower.

And, you and I will have plenty of opportunities in this broken world — and not just from afar via social media, but from our own backyard. We may need to comfort a friend whose child has been diagnosed with cancer or grieve with a neighbor who lost mother or father or child or do the shopping for a family member at the bedside of her dying husband or drive an elderly acquaintance back and forth for medical treatment.

Christians alone are able to offer a compelling hope to the world in the midst of great tragedy, but it’s done with more than words. Especially poorly timed words.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: December 17, 2012

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