A couple of weeks ago, I watched a volcano erupt on social media. As with most volcanoes, there were signs that danger was coming. The careful observer couldn’t miss them. Despite knowing what was coming and how it would play out, the ensuing devastation was sad to watch.
The fight was between conservative Christians and liberal Christians. The conservatives started out pretty well, simply stating their beliefs and opinions. The liberals responded with sarcasm and anger. Soon, the conservatives answered in kind, resorting to name-calling and un-Christian attacks. Supporters on both sides were giving virtual high-fives, but, in the end, there were no winners. No one’s mind was changed. If hearts were changed, it was not for the better.
When Christians share their beliefs on social media—especially those whose beliefs are seen as archaic and outdated—it’s always a challenge. What do you say? How do you say it? There is another challenge that we don’t often talk about, but which often comes to my mind. That challenge is when to stay silent.
I am a woman with strong opinions. You’ve probably noticed that in past posts. Like everyone else, I have natural reactions when I read a news article or controversial social media post. I learned long ago, though, not to immediately share them. The result is most often anger and hurt feelings. No one is helped by that.
Instead, I turn my ideas over and over in my head, formulating strong arguments, often with supporting scriptures and/or quotes from prophets and apostles. When I feel secure in my position and I’m ready to state it, the thought usually comes to my mind, Take it to the Lord and ask Him if you should share it. The answer I get the majority of the time? “Stay silent.”
When Jesus Christ was brought before the Sanhedrin, He watched as one false witness after another came forward to testify against Him. Christ bore their lies in silence.
“And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
“But Jesus held his peace.” (Matthew 26:62-63)
He only broke His silence to confirm that He is indeed the Son of God—a truth His accusers would not accept.
The Book of Mormon tells of a similar situation. After rejecting the teachings of Alma and Amulek, the people of Ammonihah put the two men in prison. When they were abused and questioned, Alma and Amulek responded with silence.
“And it came to pass that the judge stood before them, and said: Why do ye not answer the words of this people? Know ye not that I have power to deliver you up unto the flames? And he commanded them to speak; but they answered nothing.” (Alma 14:19)
Whenever the Lord asks me to stay silent, I think of these examples. There were probably many reasons why these men chose to say nothing to defend themselves. I, however, am not as righteous as any of them and I feel that the reason the Lord wants me to stay out of so many arguments is because he wants to teach me an important lesson.
The Lord has been teaching me for some time that I need to be more humble. When I step back and consider the arguments I have so carefully honed, I tend to find a strong measure of arrogance. By asking me to stay quiet, the Lord is reminding me that I am not an expert on every subject. I am not likely to silence the critics with my words, no matter how much I imagine I will. There are others more qualified than I am to take on these battles, others who can withstand the attacks without feeling the need to defend themselves or sink into the realm of name-calling and attacking in return. Those individuals will speak and act with the Spirit. Their words will have more of an impact than mine and I will be better served by quoting them than trying to craft an eloquent argument myself.
So what’s left for me to do? Aside from sharing quotes and thoughts when I feel impressed, I can make choices and decisions for myself that reflect my beliefs. I can show the world through my actions that I am a Christian. I can stay out of contentious arguments and participate in thoughtful discussions. Most importantly, I can cultivate personal relationships and have one-on-one conversations, where love and respect are most likely to flourish. And when I feel inspired to do so, the Lord will help me to write what He needs me to write.