I Dare Not Be Silent
She stood against the ice rink wall, her arms crossed, guarding against the cold. I followed her line of sight to a tiny, delicate girl gliding far too skillfully for her age.
"Is she yours?" I asked.
"Yes, she's five. I bring her here every day," she replied in an accented voice.
Thus our conversation began.
A refugee from the Vietnam war, she explained, "I am a Buddhist, but really I am lost." (I would agree, but it was amazing coming from her.) She continued, "I haven't gone to temple in years. I don't know what I believe."
At first taken aback, I felt my spirit prodded to ask more questions. God help me. I don't know what I'm doing, I prayed.
We talked on.
"Just comparing Buddhism with the Bible..." I attempted to segue to the truth. Finally, I mustered the courage to bring up the "s" word--sin. How can a man see his need for Christ unless he is first humbled by a glimpse of himself? After all, Christ did not come to save the self-righteous, but those who see the sickness in their souls.
And yet mentioning sin still manages to challenge me, as one of the most difficult words to get past my lips. A million questions whirl through the mind, "What will she think? Am I going to sound preachy? What if she gets angry?" I was downright scared.
Speaking of sin requires love. It takes the love of Christ to motivate forgiven sinners (who are still very fearful, weak creatures) to stick out their necks enough to say, "Friend, you're in sin and because I love you I want to warn you where it leads." Yet this love is so important that 1 John tells us we're not really in the faith if we do not have it:
"The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him." (1 John 2:9-10)
After discussing sin, the eyes of the woman at the ice rink widened in amazement. "I have lived in the United States for many years and known many, many Christians and you seventeen year old girl the first to tell me about this!"
I felt sick, knowing I almost had not told her; but I know God must feel sicker, knowing full well the fearfulness in my heart, and the hearts of countless others who pursed their lips instead of speaking truth.
Our behavior is shameful. As soldiers of the Cross we deserve to be court marshaled. We're cowards, cooperating with the enemy by our refusal to fire even a word into the fray. Even Jeremiah, who never heard the name of Jesus Christ in his lifetime, knew enough of God that he was compelled to speak. He cried,
(Jeremiah 20:8-9. Italics mine.)
"For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.
But if I say, 'I will not remember Him
Or speak anymore in His name,'
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it."
Having seen God's love hang on a Cross, how can we be anything less than a Jeremiah? How do we dare keep silent? I'm ashamed of myself. It's my prayer that my tongue will be quicker and my heart more eager to vent the smoke of this fire in my bones. Hopefully next time, I'll be bold.
Until then, I'm praying for the woman at the ice rink.