A couple of weeks ago I stopped off for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants; Piggie Park Barbeque in Columbia, South Carolina. After placing my order and getting my drink I found a table and sat down to relax. Being that it was around 2:30, I was the only customer. As the dining room was fairly small I was able to listen to the conversation of the staff as they prepared my meal. The conversation initially thrilled my soul.
The young man, whom it turned out was training to become manager, was answering questions about his religious beliefs asked by the lady who was leaving the position. It was clear that this had been the topic of discussion prior to entering. The answers and explanations he was giving caused me to consider that he might be a member of the Lord’s church. It happened that he brought my plate to the table, so I asked what church he attended. Sure enough he stated, “I’m a member of the church of Christ.” But then my heart sank as he followed that up with, “But I’m not too sure about it.” By way of clarification, I did ask what he wasn’t sure of, and he replied that he wasn’t sure that one church matters over another or that it really matters what we believe.
Clearly God’s people need to speak up. It was great to hear this young man doing so. We have become far too silent for far too long. Even in our assemblies as brethren mill around before and after worship we’re much more likely to hear talk of the NFL draft, water levels on our lakes, and how much rain we’ve had than we are to hear anything about religion. We have a clear mandate from God to speak up (Matthew 28:18-20). We begin simply by telling them what God has done for us (Mark 5:19-20). We consider where they are in their spiritual understanding (Acts 8:30-35). And we refuse to be silenced (5:40-41). To hear someone explaining their beliefs in a public setting is a tremendous blessing! Turning that around, hearing someone apologize for and dismiss their beliefs is extremely disheartening.
The apostle Peter struggled with the same problem in himself. After declaring his unwavering devotion to Christ, over the course of one crucial evening he denied what he’d previously professed three times (Matthew 26:69-75). Each denial reveals something about his own struggles, that perhaps we can relate to.
The first time Peter feigned ignorance over what was going on: “I do not know what you are saying.” Many people fear speaking up for Christ because they do not want to seem overly religious, so they pretend they aren’t.
The second time Peter somewhat acknowledged knowing what was going on, but swore that Jesus was a stranger to him: “I do not know the Man!” With all of the differing religious views circulating out there, many are uncomfortable taking a public stand.
The third time Peter set out to distance himself as far from Christ as he could: “…he began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’” And of course he behaved in such a manner as to convince everyone within hearing that he truly was not a disciple of Christ.
But all of what he went through prepared Peter to later speak up with boldness and confidence. Being commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus—something he’d have happily complied with the night the Lord was arrested—he was able to answer, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Perhaps the young man I encountered in South Carolina will develop this same boldness in time. Perhaps we all will. He truly deserves “… the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips…” (Hebrews 13:15).