Compelled to Speak
There comes a time when we must speak up and speak out. Failure to do so is a denial of who we are and what we believe. The New Testament Christians had a kind of boldness that betrayed normal human demeanor. They were emboldened to confront systemic evil with effectiveness. One such occasion is recorded in Acts, chapter four. A cripple man had been healed in the name of Jesus as Peter and John walked in the temple area. It caused a stir. The leaders of religion gone bad were demanding that they stop using the name of Jesus. Their response was classic and the effect was miraculous.
“Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:19-20
Walking in the Authority of Christ
What made them so bold?
They were radicalized by hearing the shocking announcement that the long-awaited kingdom of heaven had arrived in their day. Since the Garden of Eden, humans had longed for order to be restored in creation. Trapped by sin and tossed by confusion, all of mankind longed for a day of restoration.
Universally, people knew something had gone wrong and needed to be fixed. For centuries Israel’s prophets had foretold such a glorious time. Speculation had been rampant among the Jewish teachers about what it would look like. It was the object of their hope. They were looking for the climax of history.
According to Jesus that day had arrived, but in a different form than they expected. He taught his students to pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Though it was a radical prayer, it resonated with the hope that lingered deep in their hearts. They had seen the simple carpenter’s son who lived righteously, taught insightfully, died unjustly, and raised from the grave miraculously. He was exalted to the place of authority which he dispensed to his disciples. It was this authority that healed the cripple man by the gates to the temple.
Assured of Divine Justice
They somehow knew that they were working with God to displace the kingdoms of darkness that tormented the world. They were not Old Testament saints still waiting for a kingdom to invade the world. It was time and they knew it.
When the tentacles of systemic evil tried to stop the spread of new life, they would not stand down. Since they believed firmly that death was not final, they did not shrink back from dying for their faith. They were single minded in their zeal to declare the good news of Jesus’s complete work. Getting that done was more important than physical life and exalting him more urgent than personal survival. They were dangerous to the kingdoms that used death as a leverage and fear as their weapon. They were aware that they had been sent by the ultimate authority, and thus had no fear of lesser authorities. Though humanly weak and unrecognized, they spoke the confidence of those assured of divine justice.
We Have Been Commissioned
Those early Christians were heroic, but they don’t represent an unreachable ideal. Their behavior is normal for those who have seen the available kingdom of God. We have the same life ebbing in us that they enjoyed.
The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead has brought new life into us. We too live for something greater than our own pleasure. We have been commissioned to start where we are and move throughout the earth praying for the kingdom of heaven to displace the powers of evil, and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord over all. When opportunities to speak up and speak out arrive, we are to gladly step forward. With the love that conquers hate, and the mercy that forgives wrongs filling our hearts, we call out injustice and offer a kind of peace that stills all storms.
Compelled to Speak
We have been given one of those opportunities recently in our land. While some are expressing their anger and fear in destructive ways, it is time we stood up and affirmed what our Father is exposing.
When people ask what we should do, the first answer is that we must not do nothing. A cup of cold water, a word of encouragement, a kind gesture — these will open doors for deeper conversation and longer relationships. When we align with what God is doing, he will lead us. First, we must recognize that this is our time. The kingdom of God is available and we are compelled to speak. Love never fails.
Dudley Hall is a Senior Contributor to The Stream. He is the founder and President of Kerygma Ventures, a sought-after speaker, an engaging preacher, an effective consultant, and a trusted spiritual father. Dudley has authored several books including Grace Works, Incense & Thunder, Glad to be Left Behind, Men In Their Own Skin, Orphans No More, When Hard Times Come, Follow Me and his latest, a children’s book laced with gospel truth: Shorty the Substitute Ram.