The White Elephant in the Room

We have a figure of speech that we use, mainly in group settings, to describe those situations when there’s something or someone that everyone can’t help but notice; it has everyone’s attention, but either no one wants to talk about it, or they’re afraid to. It’s called the white elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

Unfortunately, over the past few decades, that kind of describes how people react when they hear the name Jesus Christ, or whenever the subject of Christianity is brought up. Mention Jesus in a group setting today and watch the uncomfortable responses. People start looking around the room or staring down at the floor. They may pretend to be distracted or act as though they didn’t hear what was said. You might notice someone tugging at his collar and feeling a bit uneasy. Some might try to steer the subject to something else. It might be that a Christian is trying to share his or her faith with co-workers. It might be a new believer who’s telling a group of secular friends about his or her conversion. Whatever the situation may be, Jesus quite often becomes the white elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. That’s what happens when a society turns away from God. The mere mention of His name makes some people uncomfortable and if someone does respond when the name of Jesus is brought up, it’s more likely to be in anger or mockery.

In the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, no one wanted to hear about God either. First the northern kingdom of Israel and later the southern kingdom of Judah suffered judgment and punishment after they turned away from God. Unfortunately, here in America today, we’re following in the footsteps of those two ancient kingdoms. Jeremiah 1:19 tells us: Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me. (Jeremiah 1:19) God told Jeremiah to speak those words (and many more) to the people of Judah, but they refused to listen. Though there was a brief period of reform under King Josiah, Judah quickly deteriorated after Josiah’s death.

The people did not want to hear Jeremiah’s message of impending judgment, and they continued to defy God, just as the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had done decades before. Isaiah preached of their pride and arrogance. In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, the Bible says, The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. All the people will know it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—who say with pride and arrogance of heart, “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.”

In other words, the people of Israel were saying to God, “You can’t hurt us.”  They were wrong. God will not be mocked, nor will He be ignored.

As Christians, it is our duty to talk about God and bring Him glory, even though it may make some around us uncomfortable. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that we’re to let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. Paul encouraged believers in Romans 15 to glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.  That phrase “one voice” is especially important because it tells me we were meant to speak up and talk about God. We don’t shy away from it because as the author of Hebrews exclaimed, “….we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” And Peter wrote in his first epistle, Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Unless our nation turns from the path it’s on, we will suffer the same judgment and wrath as Israel and Judah. No one wants to talk about that either. It doesn’t matter. Like the white elephant in the room, it’s too big to ignore. And we can be sure from the history of judgment against the nations that’s recorded in the Bible, God will not be treated like the white elephant in the room much longer.