Using your voice

As a young pastor, I was cautious about becoming overly involved in politics. I didn’t want to alienate anyone, and I certainly didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot in my new church. But the mistake came when I avoided such conversations so much that I was reluctant to speak on social issues at all. A simple reading of the Bible corrected my heart and revealed that God expects leaders to use their voices for good, even in difficult situations.

In Proverbs 31:9, King Lemuel’s mother instructed him, and us by implication, to “open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” God desires for his people to speak up on behalf of others.

The right use of our voice requires three simple and doable actions:

1. We must show up. It is widely quoted in an election year that “decisions are made by those who show up.” Whether it is a church voting to build a new building, a state convention deciding whether to approve a resolution or our Southern Baptist Convention choosing its next leaders, those who come to the meeting make the decision. For your voice to matter, you must engage in the process.

2. We must stand up. Followers of Jesus have something to say about the moral and ethical issues of our day. We are not merely a voting bloc, but instead people who care about others, which means we must also care about the issues that impact the lives of others. Our voice must be heard.

British Parliament member William Wilberforce, out of obedience to Jesus and a love for his neighbors, stood against the slave trade in his day. Kentucky Baptists stood up for Sunrise Children’s Services when our governor refused to renew its contract to provide services for Kentucky’s needy and neglected children. The Texas legislature stood up to the high-powered abortion industry by making a law that has saved thousands of lives and withstood the initial scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court. We must stand up for the things that matter.

3. We must speak up. The wise words of the king’s mother in Proverbs 31 instruct us to speak up personally, purposefully and passionately. We must speak up personally at the biblical admonition to “open your mouth.” We must speak up purposefully at the call to “judge righteously.” And we must speak up passionately when urged to “plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Righteousness requires us to speak on the behalf of those who do not have a voice or whose voice has been marginalized. We must speak up on behalf of the unborn, the orphan and the oppressed. Christian leaders must continue to be careful about engaging the political process. But we must not be negligent when it comes to speaking up for human flourishing and the protection of the unborn. May the Lord give us biblical convictions about the most important matters of our day and the courage to let our voices be heard in a way that honors Jesus.

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