To Be or Not To Be
“To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer, The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them…” (Hamlet, Act 3; Scene 1)
This was the question Hamlet in the Shakespearean play asked himself. He was debating whether to keep silent and say nothing of his suspicions as to who murdered his father or to speak up and say what he believed to be true. He knew that if he opposed his fratricidal uncle, who had killed Hamlet’s father and usurped his throne, he would face the wrath of the king. He also believed he could not live with himself if he chose the coward’s path. To be a courageous man or not to be a courageous man was the choice he faced. We all face something like this in our lives. Our lives may not depend upon it, but then again they might…
Suppose an unarmed man walks into a room full of people and asks, “Is anybody here a Christian? If you are a Christian, stand up.” If you were present in that room would you stand up? Sure you would. You might be curious as to why he asked, but, you might also see this as an opportunity to teach him the gospel. Any Christian should confess Christ at this point. The Scriptures say, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…” (1 Peter 3:15)
An armed man walks into a room full of people and asks, “Is anybody here a Christian? If you are a Christian, stand up.” If you were present in that room would you stand up? If you would not stand up under this circumstance, but would under the previous circumstance, then why not now? What is different? In the first scenario you are not afraid for your life, but under this one you are afraid for your life. So, the difference would be fear. Fear, then, makes it OK to be silent?
Now, some try to equate the above scenarios with not sharing a Facebook post that says, “If you love Jesus you will share this post” or honking at a bumper sticker which states, “Honk if you love Jesus.” This is not the same thing as being in the same room with someone. The Facebook post or bumper sticker is an impersonal and random thing and more of a statement of that person’s beliefs than anything else. But someone looking directly at you and asking the question – whatever their motive – is something different. This person may be asking you to show your faith; testing to see if it is genuine. Or, he may be planning to murder you.
In the same context of Matthew 10:32-33 where Christ speaks of confessing before the Father those who confess Him and denying before the Father those who deny Him, He also said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell…” (Matthew 10:28) To remain silent would show greater fear toward the one holding the gun than for God.
Now, fear is a powerful emotion. Peter boldly stated that he would die with Jesus before denying Him. (Luke 22:33) Peter likely thought that he would never face any circumstance which could induce the kind of fear that would cause him to deny the Lord. Yet, within a few hours, three times, he denied Christ.
What was his motive? What could it have been other than fear? Fear for his life. He was recognized as a disciple of Jesus. He was afraid that he would be taken and crucified with Jesus. He was a condemned man at this point. Had they arrested and killed him right then, he would have been lost forever. Peter lived to regret his denial and to overcome his fear. Peter repented and received forgiveness. Peter boldly died for Christ, never again denying His Lord!
Peter was fortunate that he was not killed right then. How about you? Do you believe you would likewise be so fortunate? As for me, I would rather die with His name on my lips than walk away and feel myself to be a spiritual coward. Or if I was not able to walk away and the man killed me anyway, I would not want to stand before Christ and have to answer Him as to why I sat there and said nothing or did nothing?
Remember what the Lord said. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death…” (Revelation 21:7-8; emphasis mine, JWM.)
He also said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life…” (Revelation 2:10b emphasis mine, JWM). “Unto death” implies that even at the point of death we must still be faithful to Christ. Even if it will cost us our physical life to do so! I can’t be a faithful Christian and deny Christ or refuse to acknowledge Him.
A faithful child of God should not remain silent under this circumstance, but nothing says you would have to sit there and let him kill you either. Fighting for your life and for the lives of others is an alternative. You might likely die, but Christ, you would not deny!
“To be or not to Be, That is the Question…”