Summary: The Bible consistently teaches that Christians are not only to be seen, but also to be heard. If we have the only message that shows how to get back to God, then God forbid we keep that message to ourselves!
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
ILL. I don’t know if you saw it or not, but last year there was a talk show in which the guest was contrasting the deaths of Princess Diana & Mother Theresa. One of her comments was, “I believe Princess Diana was really sincere in her effort to help the poor, but Mother Theresa had a political agenda behind her good works.”
The talk-show host replied, “Surely you mean that the other way around.” The guest answered, “No, I really believe Princess Diana genuinely cared about poor folks & really wanted to help them. But Mother Theresa was only trying to promote her agenda of anti-abortion & anti-divorce.”
Now what in the world caused that guest to have such a strange view of the life & character of Mother Theresa? Maybe someone needed to remind her that it was Mother Theresa, not Diana, who left her comfortable surroundings many years ago to live with the poor & minister to them even when the TV cameras were not there for anyone to see. And since when has abortion & divorce become simply political issues, & not moral ones?
A. But that guest reflects the thinking of many in today’s world. Society basically says, “It’s okay for you to be a Christian. We live in the United States of America. If you want to be a Christian, that’s fine. Go to your church. Worship God. But don’t try to foist your beliefs on any of us.”
1. That attitude is obvious in the political arena. People will accept that we’re a free country. But when hundreds of thousands of Promise Keepers gather on the Mall in Washington, D.C., & seek to impact the political thinking of our country, then there is great alarm. And you hear things like, “You just can’t mix religion & politics. We have to have separation of church & state.” You see, Christians are to be seen, but not heard.
2. The same thing is true in the area of education. Schools will accept your volunteer work as you help with fund-raising & extra-curricular activities & athletic events. But if you stand up & say, “I think we ought to teach Creationism as an alternative to evolution; or that we ought to teach abstinence instead of just ‘safe sex,’” then you’ll hear the words, “Christians ought to be seen, but not heard.”
3. An employer may appreciate that you’re a person of integrity, that your work ethic is good, that you’re dependable because you’re a Christian. But if you refuse to lie to protect the boss, or if you object to some unethical practices in the business, or if you seek to express your faith openly with your co-workers, you’ll hear statements like, “Well, business is business, & religion is religion, & we need to keep them separate.” Christians ought to be seen, but they should not be heard.
B. Now that is not a new idea. It goes all the way back to the beginning of Christianity. For example, turn with me to the Book of Acts, chapter 4, beginning with vs. 16.
Here is the setting. The beginning of the church on the Day of Pentecost is recorded in the 2nd chapter of Acts, & 3,000 were added to the church on that day. Now we come to the 4th chapter & the church is beginning to have an impact on society.
People’s lives are being changed. The Jewish political hierarchy is alarmed & they arrest the apostles Peter & John. Listen to their words in Acts 4:16-17,
“’What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, & we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’”
In other words, “It is okay if they’re seen, but we don’t want them heard.”
So the Sanhedrin calls them in & commands them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. “But Peter & John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen & heard” [Acts 4:19-20].
SUM. In other words, the Bible consistently teaches that Christians are not only to be seen, but also to be heard. If we have the only message that shows men & women how to get back to God, then God forbid that we keep that message to ourselves.
PROP. To illustrate this, I want to call your attention to a couple of parables that Jesus told in the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
I. THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED