Mistaking Silence for Politeness

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never.’”

These words are attributed to the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (not to be confused with the King—who is not to be confused with Elvis). If you have ever said ‘not now’ in regards to something that needed to be done and that ‘not now’ became ‘never,’ you know exactly what Luther was talking about.

We procrastinate. Even if procrastination isn’t a great struggle for you, there is still an area of life that is marked by this dreadful imperfection. I would dare say that one area of life most affected by this ill is the spiritual life. We procrastinate in coming to Jesus for the first time…or, perhaps, in returning to the way of Jesus after frequenting a different path.

The prevalence of procrastination is what makes Hebrews 3:13 so counter-cultural and spiritually difficult. “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Sin, at its core, is deceit. When you sin, you are giving into a lie. For example, if I sleep with someone other than my wife because I’m not getting what I need to be happy, I believe no less than two lies:

  1. I believe that the point of marriage is to be happy. After all, mom always said she just wants me to be happy! Wrong. The point of marriage is to work for the holiness and sanctification of husband and wife. Happiness (a feeling) will be a by-product of loving one another sacrificially.
  2. I believe that I’m not just as responsible for the disconnect in my marriage. It’s all HER fault. It’s HIS fault we’re in this mess. This is exactly how humanity began in the garden. God confronts Adam about eating from the forbidden tree, and Adam says, “You know that other person over there? Yeah, her….she made me.” And Eve retorts, “You know that sneaky serpent…well, he made me.”

If a spouse delays in addressing the issues that might lead to an affair, he or she is becoming hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. He will become desensitized to the evil actions that are leading him into the midst of the fire.

Hebrews 3 says that part of what it means to be in the community of faith is to be on guard on behalf of other believers (believers here being the key word—Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12 that we have no business judging those outside the church). If you know someone is picking up the pace on the path to destruction or despair or death, say something!

How unloving would I be to see my little boy running into the street and silently think, “Boy, I sure hope this turns out okay”? Sometimes our silence is sinful. So with great sensitivity to the person and the situation, speak a word of caution if necessary, a word of loving encouragement perhaps.

But don’t mistake silence for politeness. It is not polite to watch someone suffer because you’re worried they’ll think less of you. Be bold. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves them too. Rest in that.

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