The right to no opinion

“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can't control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”
-Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor, 170 A.D.)

You have the right to remain silent!

We've all been there. You have a few moments to kill so you check your social media feed. Hoping to simply find out what your crazy neighbor did over the weekend or hoping to see 150 pictures of your friend's 1 year-old, you are hit with a seemingly harsh political opinion that clearly violates your standards of good taste or possibly your political viewpoint.  Perhaps you aren't even sure what they've been offended by yet- but one thing is for sure- they are right, they know it, and they are going to tell the world. Not only will you get to hear why they have all of the knowledge, you will get to hear why you or others are wrong.
There were many times in Jesus' life when others demanded an opinion from him.  For example, in Matthew 22, Some men demanded that Jesus give his opinion on Jews paying Roman taxes, which was a big deal in his day.  "Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?".   Instead of giving a strong opinion, he simply looked at the face on the coin and said, "give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God's.".  That is all he said.  No passionate plea against Rome or lengthy sermon on tithing.
When you are confronted with a social media post or news story that seems to demand a response, you may feel a tingling in your bones to react and type out a sarcastic comment or even better- the perfect MEME!  Instead, let me give you some other choices that you may never have considered.  
1. You can choose not to care.
There I said it.  You have the right to not care about a particular issue.  We all have things we are passionate about. There are an infinite amount of things that you could get worked up about. For me, I am passionate about the history of ancient Israel, the potential of the local church, the plight of orphans in Ethiopia, the mission of the church in Southern Peru, reading good books, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, watching my kids do stuff, and watching birds at my bird feeder.  Beyond that, I have some other things that I will give money towards or volunteer with.  You know what I don't particularly care about either way-
  • Donald Trump. 
  • Joe Biden. 
  • The "liberal media".  
  • The "conservative talking heads". 
  • Whether New York City mandated a vaccine.
  • A million other things.  
I simply don't care about everything. I don't have the energy and neither do you.  Marcus Aurelius made the point that if you were to suddenly hear about a war in another country, you would be tempted to have an opinion or worry about it.  But you were not worrying about it 5 minutes ago.  Simply knowing something exists is not the best reason to decide you need to have an opinion.  And if you get mad that someone doesn't care about something that you care about, remember that you probably don't care about the thing that is most precious to them! Would it make sense for me to get angry at you because you don't care about our mission trip to Peru or my kid's choir concert- both of which I find very important.

2. You can choose to be humble.
This is a crazy suggestion that is so "out there" I almost hesitate to share it. You could admit that you don't know the answer or all of the details. You could admit it sounds like a problem, but you haven't considered all of the angles and therefore you are not going to share your formative thoughts because you recognize that you might
  • Being humble could mean you admit you don' have all the information.
  • Being humble could mean you don't want to risk a relationship at the expense of feeling right.
  • Being humble could mean you are self aware enough to know you will likely look back on that post or opinion someday and disagree with your younger, less humble self.
  • Being humble could mean you decide to admit you don't know enough yet but you are going to research both sides.

3. You can sympathize without piling on to the comments!
When I consider many issues, I have sympathy, but no solutions.  For example, I see the Bible clearly commands me to love the sojourner or alien.  I know I am called to love those who our foreign to our country, yet I also know that a strong society needs to have rules, taxes, and safety. Our country has enemies that I don't particularly want walking across the border unchecked. I have strong opinions on both sides of this discussion. I think aliens should be welcomed and loved into our country. I also think borders should be secure. I don't have the solution, but I care about people- whether they were born in this country or not.   For this reason, I spent years volunteering with refugees in Dallas. Sympathy and silence are ok.  My solution was to serve them in sympathy and silence on social media.

4. You can defer to your future, more informed self!
Decide to take a season to learn about the topic. Abortion, immigration, climate change, presidential candidates are all important. If you feel that you need to have an opinion on something, you should take the necessary time to form your opinion instead of simply going with your gut reaction.
  • Discover what God says about the topic. I believe God more clear than most of us want to admit.  When we look at a topic theologically- not simply taking a verse or two, you will find certain threads of thought that clearly illuminate the heart of God.  
    • God is for the down and out.
    • God values all life.
    • God gives us boundaries and rules to protect us and let us thrive- not to limit us.
    • God welcomes those who admit sin and repent (even if they've done it 100 times before).
    • Sex is special to God and He has given us clear boundaries to enjoy it.
    • How we treat the down and out is clearly important to God.
  • Find a story or two of people who would be harmed or not helped by your current stance. Take a moment to pray for them and see their perspective.  Acknowledge that this issue may be a complex issue with no easy solution.
    • For example, I am pro-life, but I should certainly consider the perspective of a young woman who thought she was in love and is now pregnant, but her boyfriend decided to find greener pastures.  Yes she was naive. Yes she didn't understand love. But she also was 18. Every 18 year old is naive. No 18 year old understands love. Compassion should flow from followers of Jesus. We should seek to minister to her in any way possible rather than becoming angry; compassion should be our response. Even if this doesn't change my mind on abortion, it will change the nature of the discussion. I am for the down and out because God is.
      On this issue, I believe God is clear on the topic of abortion, but I also acknowledge that those who don't follow God's sexual boundaries or are victims of sinful people are affected by this topic. So as I address this topic, I must do so with a prayerful and compassionate love for those that have found themselves considering an abortion. I must remember that God has forgiven me of many sins and He loves them just as he loves me.  I can stand firm on a principle but be soft in practice.  Perhaps you may choose to support an adoption or foster family or ministry.  Perhaps you will choose to adopt or foster yourself in order to support those who have made a difficult decision to have a baby, yet can't take care of them.
My heart for our church is that we represent Christ wisely to the outside world. This means that we need to prayerfully consider our actions and words.  The will know us by our love- not by our shouting strong opinions!

So never forget- you have the right to remain silent! 

Other verses to consider:
Romans 14:1-4 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Colossians 4:5-6 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

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