In many countries around the world, there is a kind of “tolerance” of religions which says that you can believe what you want as long as you don’t proselytize anyone else. In other words, you can be a Christian, you just can’t tell anyone about it. Sure, you can be a Christian privately but don’t bring it in public.
I am sure there are many in America who would like it if we adopted this “I-wish-you’d-just-shut-up” policy. They foolishly and naively think that there would be peace if only the Christians would be quiet about sin and forgiveness. But Christians aren’t the cause of the lack of peace. And, even if we were, the plain fact of the matter is that we cannot be silent. Several reasons have been offered to explain why the mute button doesn’t work with Christians.
Some would say the main reason we are not silent is that we are commanded by Christ to speak, to witness to the glory of God. We are commanded by Christ to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). This is the Great Commission of the church. Though some have argued that this was meant for the disciples only or for the first church only, that position has not convinced many in our day. We understand that the first disciples were the first evangelists, but they were not the only evangelists. Philip and Stephen and Barnabas and Timothy and Apollos and the woman at the well in John 4 are all examples of evangelism in action by those who were not Apostles. And Acts 8 makes plain that those who are persecuted flee to another city, where they, naturally share the gospel. Christians feel compelled by the commandments of Christ to share the good news with the world.
Christians are compelled by love, too. Far beyond the mere command from Christ that His followers should make disciples of all nations is the compulsion in the believer to love others. As Christ taught, the whole law is summed up in the compulsion to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Because Christians have been loved by God (even though they deserved his wrath), they understand that love is freely given and not earned. They are free to love all men, even the most unlovely among them. So, Christians in love will share the love of Christ with others.
It only makes sense that Christians would be concerned for others. After all, Christians have been where unbelievers are—strangers of God without hope. We were captured by grace. We tasted the bitter fruits of sin and were rescued from its destruction by the grace of God. Therefore, without any haughtiness or pretense, we speak of the hope of Christ to others. Out of concern for their souls, we speak. We desire for others to have what we have—peace with God and a certain hope over all things, even over death itself. We would be callous and unloving if we did not want these priceless, eternal gifts to be available to others.
So, to put the matter in its simplest form, we witness because we are witnesses. Christians cannot be silent because we are completely remade by the Word of God. The Word has made us new creatures. The Word has reshaped our minds, our hearts, our loves, our hopes, our priorities, and our joy. So, how can the Word not be heard? God’s Word always accomplishes the purpose for which it goes out. God’s Word will be heard.
To understand what I mean, try holding your breath. Oh, sure, you can do it for a while, maybe a minute or two, but not longer. The reason is that our lungs are designed to breathe. What they inhale, they must exhale. And so it is with the church of God. What she breathes in, she must breathe out. And the individuals in the church breathe in the Word of God, and, so, they breathe out the Word of God. It is that simple. Christians share because they are Christians.
We are the light of the world. Light shines in the darkness.