September 17, 2009

Silent Bystanders

Matthew 10:32-33

“Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 10:32


One day while working in construction, a cement truck got stuck after a heavy rain. The driver got out of his truck and began using language I had not heard since I was discharged from the army. Three of us who claim to be Christians just stood there, saying nothing. We were, as someone else put it years ago, “silent bystanders.” It took an elderly woman who came out of her house to silence the truck driver. Waving her cane, she simply said, “I will not let you take my Lord’s name in vain.” The driver did not say another word.

I’ve told the story often because it made a lifelong impression on me. According to a statement of Christian faith, we may not “share in such horrible sins” that “misuse the name of God” by “being silent bystanders” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 99). It’s easy to say nothing because we are embarrassed, or because we don’t want to offend a friend or family member. Or we might be afraid of how someone might respond if we speak up in honor of God’s name.

The Bible indicates that if we are believers, we need to speak up when someone misuses God’s name. Jesus says he will not acknowledge us before his Father if we refuse to acknowledge him before others. And if we do acknowledge him, most people will respect us when we ask them without hostility not to misuse God’s name.

Lord, forgive us if we have stood by silently when someone else misused your name. Help us to acknowledge you with honor and respect always. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.

About the author — Arthur J. Schoonveld

Rev. Art Schoonveld is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church. Before retiring in 2001, he served churches in California, Illinois, and Michigan. Since his retirement he has worked part-time for the denomination and has served as an interim pastor. Art and his wife, Anita, have four children and nine grandchildren.

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