One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, while on an out-of-state trip, I almost walked out of church. I wish I had just stood up.
I don’t want to explain what was wrong about the sermon, since that’s beside the point here today. Suffice it to say that it was quite wrong, I felt uncomfortable sitting there acting as if I was okay with it, but I didn’t think walking out would have done any good.
I realize now I could have just stood up.
I could have stood up, moving to the side a bit if necessary so I didn’t block others’ view; not interfering noisily, but not being so discreet about it that no one noticed, either. Just standing.
Stand and Answer
If the pastor had asked why I was standing I could have answered simply and plainly:
“Because it would be wrong for me to sit through the doctrinal errors you’re teaching here without registering my strong disagreement.”
If he hadn’t asked, others would have done so afterward, and (in this setting, at least) I’m sure I would have had the chance to explain privately. Either way I would have let my disagreement be known, graciously yet firmly, and I might have had the chance to speak the truth.
I do not yet have a story to tell of actually standing that way. I’m sure my opportunity will come. It probably won’t come in a church.
Can you stand? Would you? Will you?
The Bible uses the metaphor of standing (1 Cor. 16:13, 2 Cor. 1:24, Eph. 6:11-13, 2 Thess. 2:15), but I think sometimes the way to stand firm today might literally be to stand. Not to shout, not even to interrupt, but to quietly register our calm yet definite disagreement.
Wisdom, Courage, Conviction
Knowing when to stand will require wisdom. I expect it will make the most sense where the speaker speaks a position of authority — a pastor, lecturer, instructor, or professor — and where he or she is saying something important enough and wrong enough to justify a public response.
Of course you have no business standing to respond unless you’ve done your homework and you know what you’re talking about. This isn’t an invitation to express mere opinion, but biblically informed knowledge.
Deciding to stand will take courage, conviction, and confidence in Christ. You’ll need to be prepared for what to say, using very few words.
You do not need to be able to explain publicly the reasons for your disagreement. If you can, that’s great, but if not you could always say, “I didn’t come here today as the teacher, you did. I’m not a public speaker anyway. But if anyone wants to know more, I’ll be available to talk afterward.”
Then sit down. You’ve made your point. (Let no one shame you for not being a public speaker. It’s okay.)
You must maintain a gracious attitude no matter what. You must being willing to yield. You may be escorted out; but you have made your point. You may be vilified, but if you respond with grace and truth, you will have made your point doubly.