By Dr. George Miller III
Saturday evening, I sat in a hotel room in Columbia, Maryland. I felt safe, well fed and enjoying a few days with my wife. My iPad buzzed and I received an article written by my good friend Dr. David Anderson entitled, #UniteRight is Very Wrong. Dr. Anderson wrote about the horror of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. After reading the article I sat thinking, praying and meditating on the Scriptures. I no longer felt safe, comfortable and easy because the article called for action. It called for us to be “USED” as part of a solution – to be used for good and not for evil. My good friend interrupted my life and challenged me to not just care about issues of justice but to stop being silent and to speak up and be heard.
God continued to engage my mind and heart the next day. People in Syracuse, NY, where I pastor a church, asked me about my thoughts on what had taken place in Charlottesville. My answer was that I condemn all white nationalists and white supremacists with their hatred, bigotry and racism. They do not represent in any way, shape or form the Christian faith and what we believe as followers of Christ.
Dr. Anderson’s article spoke of four things we can do to build bridges for what is right. The third stood out to me as a white pastor, which stated, Encourage Christian whites who disagree with white supremacy to not be silent because, to many, silence equals consent. My mind went to the Book of Proverbs where we read, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (31:8,9 NIV) We are told to speak up and not remain silent when it comes to those who are hurting, needy, marginalized or disenfranchised in some way. James 2:18 states, “I will show you my faith by what I do.” Speaking up is doing what is right. It is an action of our faith. Nothing is more compelling or authentic as a witness for the Christian faith than speaking up for those in need and calling for justice.
When I read the verses in Proverbs 31, I noted it’s a Call by God to speak up. It isn’t about political correctness, a political party or our own preferences. It is what the Creator Himself is asking us to do. Here is what emerges from the passage to me:
- It Calls for Courage. To speak up for what is right is not always easy or comfortable or safe. It calls for us to be brave. Fear is our fundamental challenge and undermines what we should do. Courage calls us to speak the truth even when you know that some might not accept it or like it. It calls us out of our comfort zone and asks us to do the uncomfortable thing at times. Have the courage to stand up against racism and speak up against it.
- It Calls for Compassion. It is about loving what God loves and feeling for those who are hurting in some manner. Compassion comes from us attempting to become aware of how racism and bigotry has impacted the lives of certain groups of people. It’s about a personal passion for relieving their pain and bringing justice.
- It Calls for Communication. We are to speak up in a clear and concise manner. It’s not being wishy-washy. We are to speak the truth but do it in love.
- It Calls for Condemning. We might not like the word but there is a need to condemn what is wrong and false. What is evil and destructive must be confronted for change to take place. We need to dislike what God dislikes – not the person but the sin, the untruth, the falsehood, the hatred, the bigotry and the violence. In my thinking transformation must include what should cease as well as what should start.
- It Calls for Commitment to Reconciliation. The overriding goal of speaking up is not to hurt but heal. Change, restoration and reconciliation needs to be our take away.
So, especially to my white friends who are leaders that can influence and impact those around them – speak up for what is right. Don’t be silent. Don’t just care – act. To my congregation I ask you to speak up for what God views as important. When we focus on what is really important to God then the trivial matters fade away but, when we don’t focus on what is truly significant and meaningful then the trivial takes over our lives. Do more than care. Choose to Speak Up – Be Heard.