October 26, 2012

Speak up? Or shut up?

Someone in my family has good news, but she told me, “Don’t tell anyone yet, until it is official.” 

It’s not easy to sit on her good news. I want everyone to know. Yet am I like that with the good news about Jesus Christ? Or do I sit on it? Could I learn something from the shepherds who were the first ones to hear it?

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

When I hear something that sounds too good to be true, my nature is to check it out. Is this wishful thinking? Some sort of fraud? Overblown? After years of checking out many things and being disappointed, I’ve concluded if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. 

The shepherds may have been skeptical too. After an explanation and seeing a host of angels, the shepherds could have wondered if they were dreaming. They decided to check it out before telling anyone what they heard and saw. Perhaps they didn’t want anyone to think they had made it up or find out later that they were wrong. So after “the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’” (Luke 2:15) They were not disappointed.

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:17–20)

I notice two things here. The shepherds were told this news was for everyone so as soon as they checked it out, it was “made known.” They did what they were told and those who heard it marveled at what they said.

But Mary had not been told to tell everyone. Even though she treasured the good news, she pondered what was said in her heart, not saying anything to anyone, at least not at that time.

As for me, I’ve checked out the good news of Jesus Christ. I know it is true and I know that I am supposed to tell others. However, there are times to be quiet. Jesus spoke of “not casting my pearls before swine” meaning that I should not share with those obviously belligerent to the message. He also said that I must allow the Holy Spirit to put words in my mouth. From that, I conclude if the words are not there, then I must be silent. 

I’ve also noticed that I tend to get this backwards. When I should speak, I tend to shut up, and when I should shut up, I tend to speak. 

I’m not alone in that regard. For instance, Jesus healed a man and said to him, “'See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.' But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town….” (Mark 1:44–45) 

Some Christians talk too much, but most of us are more guilty of being silent when we should speak. We have good news, first shared by the angel to the shepherds, then given to us through the Word of God and the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples shared that good news. They were even told by religious authorities to stop talking about Him. By this time, and because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they knew how to respond and their response is a lesson to me…

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:17–20)

May I be more like them.

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