I love the song “Four Five Seconds” by Paul McCartney, Kanye and Rihanna. It talks about having had enough and being really close to cutting loose, or “wildin’.” I love it mainly because y’all know I’m often seen wildin’. One of my fave lyrics is, “Cause all of my kindness is taken for weakness.” How many of you have felt like doormats or even, God forbid, been exploited for your kindness being mistaken for weakness? I know many people who have, and I want to look at this in the context of how we walk out our faith.
Let’s flip the script. Instead of kindness being mistaken for weakness, let’s look at anger being taken for hate. Right now Christians and humanitarian activists for equality are facing the same issue as the kind person in the song: having their true heart misinterpreted. Their zeal and justified anger is being mistaken for “hate.” With this perspective the lyrics would go something like, “Cause all of my wokeness is taken for hatred.”
Friends, on behalf of many people (I won’t speak for all, but certainly include myself) fighting for equality, I fervently apologize when our passion has bent towards anger that catches you off guard. It often catches us off guard as well. Digging deeper, I apologize when we’ve taken it a step too far and have sinned in our anger. (Ephesians 4:26) We are an imperfect people attempting to help the marginalized. We often cross the line in our approach because of the visceral reaction we have to what’s going on. I have seen this in my walk, so I know others have as well.
But regardless of a person’s reaction to the current climate of unrest, what we all must come to terms with is there is unrest and there are sins against humanity on full display. Even on video. I imagine God Himself is quite unhappy with the state of current culture which accepts oppression as the norm. A culture that says, “Fighting oppression is something for someone else to take on,” while we remain in our places of privilege, also known as our “comfort zones.” Based on scripture, the Lord’s heart for the “least of these” is clearly laid out: He despises, even hates, when “the powerful abuse the vulnerable.” (See Old Testament prophets)
People who aren’t familiar with the global movement to lift the oppressed may see friends and family as impassioned zealots, and given time this will pass. They assume these friends are part of a fringe group who consider themselves “woke;” modern day hippies. People are seeing pastors and faith leaders, like Beth Moore, calling for us to open our hearts and minds to the harsh reality that our brothers and sisters face daily oppression. Some people push away their counsel, again thinking these leaders are just an impassioned few rallying around the latest cause. But they are not a minority. They are millions who have been moved by the public display of bigotry and inequality. Pope Francis himself said it is time for the marginalized to be given a voice, to have a place at the table. But he isn’t just saying they use their voice, he’s beckoning us to use ours.
We are the voice that calls for people to awaken to the truth. “How will they know unless they hear?” We are the voice and the strength to come alongside people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations, religions, etc. We are the people who act because those laid low are in need of our love and help. Gone are the days of the oppressed fighting alone; we fight alongside them now. We are using our place and our privilege to come to their sides, because we often have influence they don’t. We can engage people groups and organizations that may reject them. The People’s Pope isn’t alone in this fight, either. Leaders from varying faiths are calling their members to recognize that our place as a believer is in coming alongside the marginalized. Our place is to actively stand up and stand in for the “least of these.”
So, in what ways are we to do this? Does it always have to be with fervor, and “turning over tables” so to speak? No. And I’m realizing that this isn’t the only way to “prove” one is in the fight. I am guilty of doing what this song I love says, “seeing kindness, or meekness, as weakness.” In humility I have recently asked myself, “What different ways am I seeing fellow believers fight? Has my fight been effective, or pushed people away? Has their fight been effective, and in what ways can I learn from it? Where can I toss in more compassion while keeping my God-given zeal?”
These questions led me to remember and embrace that believers across the world are fighting in many ways: Prayer. Fasting. Donating. Learning. Re-learning. Leaving their comfort zones to interact with minority groups. Being more intentional and honest about how they view those different from themselves. Voting for social policies that will benefit those on the outside looking in. The list goes on. Regardless of what one is doing, I believe there is a deeper heart question at hand. It isn’t what we doing but, “Are we heeding the word and reflecting the heart of our Lord in this situation? Are we repulsed, as He is repulsed, when we witness people in power oppressing the weak?” One response to these questions may not look like another. What they do may not look like what you do. And that’s ok! Going beyond that, because each response and action is different we can learn from one another’s response instead of judging one another’s response.
I want to ask those shocked at someone’s public “wokeness ” or zeal to be slow to judge and label it “hate.” I want to ask those shocked by someone’s “silence” or meekness to be slow to judge and label it “weakness.” We are ONE body and we know not all body parts are called to the same action. But each body part and it’s function is needed to fight this most necessary fight. Each of us has been given our own gift and personal journey to do the good work of bringing peace into chaos.
Each human is called to stand up for their fellow human. The time is now. It has always been now. The marginalized and vulnerable being laid low has always been something that breaks God’s heart. People in power have been keeping them under their thumb since the dawn of time. But I firmly believe we have more education, resources and momentum now more than ever to bring forth lasting change. Every wrong will never be righted until Heaven comes to Earth. One day the low will be brought high, and the tears of the brokenhearted will be wiped away for good. While we await this day with great anticipation, it doesn’t negate our responsibility to be vessels now to help right wrongs.
So whether you do something as simple as join a book club to better understand race relations, or something as complex as joining a national movement, as long as we are moving toward God’s heart of peace and reconciliation among His children we are doing it right. Let us forgive one another for expecting their fight for justice to be identical to our own. May we realize we are each given a unique personality, gifting and method to serve one another in these trying times. And may we all have abundant grace to one another as we walk out the purposes the Lord has laid before us.