“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Can I be honest for a second? I’m really struggling. I’m struggling trying to comprehend the despair in our world and the hatred that seems to be dividing us every day. And, if I’m being honest, I have been part of the problem. But I really want to be a part of the solution.
There was a time when Christians and the church were seen as a place of refuge and hope, a source of compassion and kindness in the midst of a world full of deception and despair. We’re not the place anymore. I believe it’s because we’ve gone silent.
If you pay attention to any type of news, you know we’re living in a time that is full of division and turmoil. But you don’t even have to watch the news to know that—just check social media and see if you can find some unity. It’s like Where’s Waldo out there.
Actually, the division and despair in our world doesn’t surprise me. It’s the response from followers of Christ that breaks my heart, particularly when it comes to hatred.
Why have Christians allowed hate to silence their voices against the struggles of those who are suppressed?
Quite frankly, as a whole—and I include myself in this—we’re growing more and more silent on issues of importance. When hatred surfaces, we’re afraid to address it. We’ve gotten tangled in a web of being politically correct or staying true to our political party. We’re more comfortable being silent than speaking out. And that’s a problem.
I’ve been struggling to understand why we are growing so apathetic to hate. At first, I started to believe it is because our lives are so saturated with it—social media, the news, our politicians, dinner conversations. Then, I wondered if it is because for the first time in decades, it’s becoming the public norm, void of repercussions or consequences. Hate speech isn’t back-alley conversations anymore, it’s readily available all over the internet.
We are slow to call out racism. We ignore sexism. We brush xenophobia under the rug. We live like we embrace classism. We cover our ears to the cries of suppressed people. We turn our head to injustice. We seem more content to quietly go on with our lives, seemingly in the hope that people will just leave us alone. It’s rare when churches do something bold such as invest resources to save young girls from sex slavery or create programs to combat poverty. We consider that “bold,” yet those moves should be the norm for churches around the country. The masses found hope and refuge in Christ, so why doesn’t the church feel like an extension of that anymore?
We’ve allowed hate to silence us.
I’m guilty of this too. I read the Bible. I go to church on Sundays. I do my devotionals. Yet still, I find myself ignoring uncomfortable situations—out of fear. I find myself wondering “how will people respond to this” much more often than I ask “what does Jesus want me to do or say about this?”
The irony of this whole thing isn’t lost on me—I’m searching for answers on how to respond to hatred in the world, while also judging how silent our Christian community has become.
And as I’ve been struggling with this, I found myself being drawn back to the book of Matthew. In it, Jesus addresses the Pharisees, a group of hyper-religious leaders. When I read his words to them, I can’t help but feel like, in many ways, we are standing in their place.
Jesus says (referring to the Pharisees) “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”
Am I alone in feeling like that is the American church right now? Sure, we preach love and unity and compassion, but are we practicing what we teach?
Are we a safe haven for refugees?
Are we speaking out against racism and injustice?
Are we defending the overlooked?
Do we even know anyone in a different tax bracket then us?
Are our lives marked by dedication to a King over a country?
It doesn’t always feel like it. And it feels like I’m part of that problem. Our silence so often seems rooted in fear of the response of the world, rather than the truth that God has given us.
We as Christians serve a God who was bold and direct, but also loving and compassionate. Yet it seems we’ve grown comfortable with the version of Jesus who we believe didn’t ruffle feathers or cause a stir. But that isn’t who he was.
Look at verse 23 in that same book of Matthew in the Bible. These are the words Jesus spoke, and they feel more relevant than ever:
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
Justice. Mercy. Faith. Three things Jesus is explicitly telling us are important. So why are we so afraid to act on the truth he has so clearly given us?
For me, it’s because I’m concerned with how people will respond to me—believers and nonbelievers alike. It’s my experience—many times, when I dared to speak up in the past, I was silenced. So, instead of fighting for the truth God has given us, I conceded. I take the easy road.
I’m learning to become more comfortable in trying to be a person who speaks truth against hatred, using the Bible as my lens. It can be challenging, but as a Christian, it is the example that was set for me by Christ. He touched the untouchable. He listened to suppressed and neglected voices. He spent time with the ignored. He healed the broken. And He commanded me to love my neighbor—all eight billion of them—as I love myself.
In the past, fear silenced me. Now, I’m determined to not let fear get the last word. If we don’t speak against hate and lies as Christ did, who will?