For criminal suspects, remaining silent is a right and usually a prudent defense strategy.
For believers, remaining silent is disobedience.
When Jesus was brought to “trial” before the religious leaders (Mark 14:53-72), he could have kept silent and as contrived as testimony against him was, it was insufficient to convict him. Yet he boldly testified, anyway, despite the desire and intent of those leaders to murder him.
Peter, on the other hand, should have kept silent. It would have been better than the timid, self-serving witness he gave, which was actually false. Instead, he should have given true testimony to his identification with Christ. While Jesus gave bold testimony before those who would kill him, the cross-examination of a servant girl was too much for Peter.
Peter had very recently insisted he would never abandon Jesus (pride), had fallen asleep in the garden (sloth), had opted for safe observation when Jesus was in danger (cowardice), and benefited from the world’s comforts in warming himself by the fire (worldliness…Mark records this for us twice).
Each day we are faced with the decision to either give bold testimony to Jesus, who saved us, who has called us to bear witness to his gospel, and who has sent us out to do so. Yet common sins such as those that overtook Peter also tempt us to remain silent when we should speak.
We suppose that we are immune to falling (“I would never do that”…”I can’t believe he did that”). Or, we allow other demands on our time and energy, such as work, and kids’ schedules and hobbies to leave us sluggish, so that we become “spiritual sleepwalkers.” Or, we follow kingdom activity “from a distance,” observing how conversations about truth and about the gospel and about Jesus go so that we can join in if things looks good, but also so that we can maintain plausible deniability if they go wrong (“I’m not one of those weirdos!”). Or, we allow our affinity for creature comforts to make us hesitate to offer bold testimony as we contemplate whether it’s worth being cold to be faithful to Christ.
Several things are true about us and our confession: 1) separation from Christ weakens our witness; 2) capitulation to sin dampens our resolve, and 3) focus on ourselves taints our testimony.
Jesus saves us and calls us not to remain silent, but to proclaim him. We have opportunity every day.