Masks are all around us these days. Most of the ones we see are designed to deter the spread of COVID-19. Some masks, however, are intended to hide someone’s identity. Christians seem increasingly comfortable donning a disguise that requires no physical material. We put on the mask of silence which conceals the tenets of our faith.
This isn’t a new problem. The mask of silence has a long history, even in the relatively young life of our country. An early example is the treatment of Native Americans, Indians as they were first called, tribal people who lived here long before our ancestors came.
Native Americans are near the top on the list of people who’ve gotten raw deals. They were driven without mercy from their land. It was justified and deemed legal since they didn’t have deeds to their property recorded at the courthouse. Their plight was predictable as arrows were no match for bullets. The atrocities suffered by Native Americans were horrendous because too many people of faith wore masks of silence. It was easier to stay quiet than to face ridicule or risk being ostracized.
Slavery is another matter we can look back on and see the terrible cost of staying silent. There’s no way a civilized society could justify slavery, yet it flourished for years. People were abducted from their homeland, loaded on to slave ships, and traded like merchandise. There was no question it was cruel and sinful, yet people of faith wore masks of silence. It was easier to stay quiet than to stand alone and risk perilous attention.
The voices of many Christians today are silent on issues we find difficult to discuss. One notable area is moral depravity. Immorality is widely embraced by the entertainment industry, much of society, and even within the realms of organized religion. Clearly stated Biblical principles are commonly scorned, as are people of faith who openly share their convictions. So once again we take cover behind a mask of silence rather than face criticism, condemnation, and litigation. We avoid honesty in our conversations in fear of others taking offense or accusing us of insensitivity and bigotry. It’s much easier to stay quiet.
I’m not advocating that people of faith engage in rude or demeaning behavior. But our lives should give evidence of beliefs which are based on God’s Word rather than social norms and celebrities who merchandize licentiousness. As Christians we should be prepared, willing, and unafraid to share God’s Word in a loving Christ-like manner.
Isaiah 6:8 relates how God extended an invitation for Isaiah to be His spokesperson and how the Old Testament prophet responded. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who should I send? Who will go for us? I said, Here am I. Send me.”
There are two things I find inspiring about Isaiah’s response. One is that it was immediate. He didn’t hesitate and ask God to give him a few days to think it over. He didn’t delay by mentioning things he needed to take care of at home or the office. Isaiah was ready to answer the call.
The second thing I admire about Isaiah’s reply is he didn’t add any restrictions. He didn’t question the details of what God had planned for him. He didn’t look for excuses or seek an easy path of service. God gave him a difficult task and told him in advance the people wouldn’t listen. But Isaiah was ready to do what God wanted him to do.
God still uses people to help convey His Word. As it was during Isaiah’s time, many won’t listen and will reject it. We can’t control the response of others. We can, however, choose to faithfully share and defend God’s message with boldness and compassion.
Our challenge as Christians is to speak the truth in love. Our challenge is to be like Isaiah and go where God leads us without hesitation or restrictions. Our challenge is to answer God’s call and say with all our heart, “Here am I. Send me.”
I’d love to think countless believers will meet those challenges, but I believe that’s unlikely. I understand the dilemma far too well, as my convictions are often more robust than my courage. So, I wear the mask of silence sometimes, knowing it’s much easier to stay quiet.