To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:...I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)
As we have seen before, one of my longtime fandoms is musical theater. Lately, I have been geeking out about the Tony-winning Broadway sensation, Hamilton, in which a racially diverse cast raps their way through a retelling of the early history of the United States with a specific focus on Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father who tends to be known today only as “that guy on the $10 bill” or “that guy who was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.”
Indeed, a major focus of the show is the development of the antagonistic relationship between Hamilton and his “frenemy” Aaron Burr, the narrator and self-proclaimed “damn fool who shot him.” We don’t have to wait long to find out the reason for Hamilton’s frustration, as the the show’s second song reveals Burr’s motto: “Talk less. Smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”
Talk less, smile more. Well, that’s a piece of advice Hamilton, and indeed many of us, should heed more often. We spend so much time running our mouths when so many problems could be averted if we listened instead, and Biblical writers like James and the psalmists provide much evidence in support of this position. But what about the rest of Burr’s statement?
Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for. Now, that’s where Hamilton begs to differ, a complaint against Burr that he makes so often that, as the musical tells it, it ends up getting him killed. From the beginning, Hamilton recognizes the danger of what Burr is doing and calls him on it, using that old adage that I remember hearing countless times in youth Bible studies as a teenager: “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”
It’s one thing to be reticent when deciding whether or not to openly support an uprising that will get you hanged for treason if it fails, but even later on, when Burr is campaigning for public office, his motto has not changed. He seems nice enough — “like you could have a beer with him” — and he’s popular with the ladies (“tell your husbands, vote for Burr”), but we still don’t know where he falls on the critical issues of the day. When it comes to decision time, as portrayed in the show, the thing that ends up swinging the presidential vote to Jefferson is the endorsement of his bitter political opponent Hamilton, who would rather support someone with whom he has “fought on like seventy-five different fronts” than someone who won’t come out and state his position on anything.
The moral of the story, then, is to stand up for what you believe in. We should definitely talk less and smile more — it’s hard to hear the voice of God when we’re constantly running our mouths. But we should never be afraid to let the world know clearly what we stand for, either. Our words, actions, and attitudes should clearly proclaim that what we are for is our Savior, Jesus Christ.