Yesterday the Boykins went to see the Martin Scorsese film, "Silence" based on Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel. The story is about two 17th century Portuguese priests who go to Japan in search of their mentor who was rumored to have turned away from the Christian faith. Knowing that Christians in Japan were enduring absolutely horrific suffering they pressed ahead, only to find suffering of their own.
I'm not going to give away any of the movie ... I actually hope many of you go to the theater and see it for yourselves. If you do, let me warn you that this isn't the Christian feel good movie of the year where you'll leave humming Chris Tomlin tunes and then stop by Chick-fil-A on the way home to discuss with other Christians how your heart was blessed. It's a movie that is both glorious and frustrating ... encouraging and depressing ... clarifying and confusing. The movie confronts the viewer with the apparent silence of God in the midst of mass, violent, and brutal persecution. And then it hits you with the silence of Christians when you want them to be loud and clear about their faith. If nothing else, this movie will cause you to consider your own faith and how you might respond in the face of such suffering. All the, "Well, I know what I would do in that situation" sort of thinking is truly challenged. In many ways the movie allows us to catch a glimpse of our own weak, faltering, and inconsistent faith. It also shows the incredible power of hope that is available for those who suffer for the sake of Christ.
But, at least for me, the most powerful message of the film was the enduring power of the Gospel to overcome even the most brutal persecution and utter weakness of man's heart and will. Jesus Christ has been trampled on by untold numbers of people, including those of us who do profess His name and are born again, yet His reign and rule and kingdom will not be brought down. Sometimes it's only the size of a mustard seed but its success doesn't depend on how great a Christian I am ... but rather on His power and faithfulness to His own glory.
Many of us in 21st century America often struggle with the apparent silence of God. Why doesn't He answer? Why doesn't He do something? Why doesn't He care? The truth is that God is not silent, He has spoken loud and clear by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross to die for our sins. And His Word reminds me that He never leaves or forsakes me, no matter the outward circumstances.
Many of us in the 21st century church and the particular expression of it known as Community Presbyterian in Moody wrestle with our own silence. Why do we not speak up? Why are we so uninvolved? Why are we content to distance ourselves from truly living out the Gospel in hard situations? Why do we functionally deny our Savior in certain times of trouble?
I don't write this to give all the answers ... I guess I would if I had them. No, instead this is an invitation to enter into that struggle with other believers and lean more heavily upon the Lord today than you did yesterday.
Lord, open our eyes and ears to know that even in silence You are speaking; help our unbelief; grow our faith. Convict us of our own silence and inaction. Remind us again of your unfailing love, forgiveness, and grace that is dependent on the finished work of Christ rather than our own meritorious efforts.