By Tavares Robinson
We are living in a time where silence has become something admirable. The admiration has led many to believe that promotion from God will come if you just mind your business.
I understand there is a time to be quiet; however, there is also a time to speak. When the Holy Spirit is compelling us to open our mouths, silence is not a badge of honor and humility.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, he scornfully dismissed the church and its leaders as an irrelevant voice posing no threat to his agenda. Sadly, Hitler was right. Many of the German churches remained quiet and looked the other way. Hitler said, “We should destroy the preachers by their notorious greed and self-indulgence. We shall thus be able to settle everything with them in perfect peace and harmony. I shall give them a few years reprieve, why should we quarrel? . . . They will betray their God for us, they will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and income.”
The church looked away, thinking that showing “love” instead of confronting evil would turn the tide. But this not only encouraged the sin; in fact, it directly strengthened the hands of the evildoers. Few voices were raised against the monstrous Nazi evil during that time. One of the few was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He understood that love for Christ and others required courage to speak the truth even in unfavorable times. Bonhoeffer was deeply troubled by the church silence:
“We the church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough the message of the One God who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus, and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself. She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions. She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was crying aloud to heaven. . . The church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers of Jesus Christ. The church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet, possession, and honor to which she has no right. She has not born witness to the truth of God and by her silence, she has rendered herself guilty, because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right.”
In its thunderous silence, the church became a traitor to the lordship of Christ. She failed to heed Bonhoeffer’s prophetic words, and within a few years Hitler’s agenda was accomplished—with over eleven million people being murdered, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer himself. True biblical love never turns a blind eye to deception, error and sin. The attitude that we should ignore these things and “just let God deal with it,” is anything but biblical. Compromising for the sake of peace, acceptance and approval is never the answer for devoted Christians.
This type of mindset draws minimal opposition from the Enemy. Satan knows people have the ability to reassess their spiritual condition, so his plan is to keep them as comfortable as possible. It could even appear God is rewarding them because of their increased earthly achievements, adding credibility to the notion that God is blessing them despite their unbiblical view of love. It is a view of love that compromises for the sake of adulation and approval.
What happened among the German churches happened first to the church at Corinth. In First Corinthians chapter five, we see a church that has become seduced by a false notion of grace and love. There was a particular man who was having a sexual relationship with his stepmother. This illicit relationship bore the same stigma as if the man had been having a sexual relationship with his own mother. Incestuous affairs were of course forbidden by the Scriptures: “Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father,” intoned Leviticus 18:8. “A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not dishonor his father’s bed,” Deuteronomy 22:30 reads.
This incestuous affair was even considered taboo by the pagan city of Corinth. To say that the city did not approve this sort of thing speaks volume. Corinth was known as the hotbed of immorality. Living a blatant, licentious lifestyle was standard. The city had temple priestesses who served as prostitutes where men would go in and have sexual relations as part of their temple worship. The prostitutes would leave the temple to come into the city and sell their services in the marketplace. They lived the immoral life to the fullest, and the church allowed this to go on. The world was looking at the church and saying, “Even we know that is wrong!” That is what troubled the apostle Paul.
What outraged Paul the most was not just the man’s sin, but the Corinthian church’s response to his sexual immorality. He asked, “And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” (1 Cor. 5:2). There are perhaps two main reasons why the church looked the other way when it came to egregious sin. First, the rejection of the authority of the Word of God. They overlooked the sin even after Paul said, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people, (1 Cor. 5:9). Second, the church had a false view of love, which led directly to the rejection of the Scripture. With the rejection of Scripture came a causal attitude toward sin.
What the church of Corinth displayed in this salacious situation was definitely not biblical love but rather the character traits of worldly love and undiscerning tolerance. Embracing tolerance just because it is politically correct will cause us to ignore what the Scripture says about a particular issue so we can come across as more loving and accepting. But according to Paul, when the church remains silent, this is not evidence of walking in love but in pride. “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (1 Cor. 5:6). The Corinthians should have been grieving over the sin within their ranks, but they allowed sin to influence and corrupt the church at large.
How is it that when non-Christians divorce, due to adultery, we call them sinners? But when our favorite church leaders do the same, we call them human, say they’re under grace, and we allow them to hold on to leadership positions? We judge the person in the world, but we protect the one in the church. When someone in the church speaks against our personal idols, whether it is a sinning leader, smoking, drinking, or sexual perversion, it is common to hear, “Who are you to judge?” “That is not the love of God,” “That is not your business” or “Just pray about it.” According to Paul, this should never be. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you,” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
When the love of God is mishandled and becomes something foreign to God’s Word, we move from an apostolic view of love to a therapeutic view of love. When things are done contrary to God’s Word, and we are not bothered by it, that is a good indicator that we have attached ourselves to a strange love. This love is toxic, the mixture of poison and some truth. Biblical love is indeed the greater virtue, but without the complete truth, it loses its potency.