My Silent Confession

The influential 19th century British pastor, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Few men repent of being silent.” Those words will cut you to the quick if you let them. How many times have we failed to speak up when deep down, we knew we should have? I’m guilty as charged.

I think of when the Apostle Paul confronted Peter for Peter’s non-Jesus-like treatment of Gentile believers. Paul calls out their hypocrisy. He essentially says they are cowards when he tells them fear is the main factor motivating their behavior. Read it for yourselves:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)

Man, there have been times I have been silent when I should have spoken. Consider this my silent confession.

Like the time I was the young guy in the room with all white men, preachers and leaders, when an internationally known speaker made disparaging remarks about the cultural practices of an all black church where he had recently preached. Me and a colleague exchanged a look. We knew. We knew it was wrong. We knew we should have said something. But we didn’t.

I’m sorry. 

There have been times I’ve seen men promoted over better qualified women simply because they were a part of the good old boy club. There have been times that has been me. I should have raised concerns. I should have said “this isn’t right.” But I didn’t.

I’m sorry.

There have been moments when I’ve listened to others described as “theologically liberal” when I know good and well it isn’t the case. But their views were unpopular in the particular corner of American evangelicalism where I found myself in the moment, and I let it slide. I shouldn’t have.

I’m sorry.

Of course, there’s much more I could apologize for that goes far beyond passively listening. But I’ll save that for future posts. For now, please hear me out. I want to be more like Paul was with Peter. And I’m sure I need more of that in my life too, people like Paul who will oppose me when I need it and not choose the easy path of saying nothing. It’s a two-way street.

I’m sure in that moment, Paul calling out hypocrisy and cowardice when everyone else was resting on their laurels and enjoying the popularity that comes with mediocrity — must have been difficult. He must have felt alone and vulnerable. He may have even second guessed himself. But, at the end of the day, he followed what he deep down knew to be right.

Sometimes you gotta be the one person in the room to call things for what they are and to refuse to keep your lips sealed any longer.

But for all the times my mouth stayed shut, I’m sorry. 

(Top image: artistic depiction of the Apostle Paul by Vincenzo Gemito, 1917).