Proverbs 31 was part of my reading plan for this morning. Verses 8 and 9 hit hard.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
This is part of God’s Word I have not obeyed well. I have most often drifted toward silence to avoid confrontation, even when I see or hear something that does not align with the truth of the gospel. I have silently listened to or read on social media far too many professed Christians I know frequently dismiss or diminish the reality and destructive power of racism, both individual and systemic.
This has been a sin in my life that I need to repent of. I pray God will give me a heart willing to first learn and listen, and then when needed, to speak up more on this issue.
In the videos of George Floyd’s arrest and murder, multiple bystanders repeatedly yelled at Derek Chauvin to take his knee off Floyd’s neck. They spoke up for George Floyd, who could not speak for himself in the minutes before he died. Chauvin and the other officers, however, largely responded with silence. The ones sworn “to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice,” they mostly remained silent.
Along with the bystanders from these videos, the Apostle Paul’s example of speaking up in Galatians 2 also provides me a helpful example of how I think Christians – and especially leaders within the church like myself – need to speak up to “ensure justice for those being crushed.”
In Galatians 2, when Paul saw hypocrisy connected to racism, he spoke up because it is out of step with the truth of the gospel. He confronted Peter about his actions. Peter, a Jew, had been openly eating with fellow believers in Christ who were Gentiles. But when other Jews arrived, Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles, fearing what they might think. Peter’s actions even led other Jewish believers to fall into the same hypocrisy. Paul writes,
“But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Vs. 14)
In other words, Paul spoke out against Peter’s actions that made his fellow believers of another race feel inferior. But he didn’t only speak out against their actions, he spoke to their hearts and the underlying wrong belief that led to their actions. Paul pointed out that their belief was out of step with the gospel, so their actions were out of step with the gospel.
In his book Galatians for You, Tim Keller says of this passage:
“Paul does not simply say that racism is a sin, which it is. He uses the gospel to show Peter the spiritual roots of the mistake he’s making. Paul says the roots of racism are a resistance to the gospel of salvation. In other words, racism is a continuation of works-righteousness in one part of our lives; it is born of a desire to find a way to feel we are in some way ‘better’ or ‘righteous’. It is forgetting that we are saved by grace; a failure to bring our relationships with other cultures in line with grace-salvation.”
My silence in the face of injustice reveals I’m forgetting I’m saved by grace. Not speaking against the voices in our government, society, and sadly in our churches that call for me to find my worth and righteousness in my race instead of in Jesus Christ means I’m wrongly believing those voices.
I don’t know how to undo centuries of systemic racism. But I do know faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not move us to turn a blind eye to racism. Denying racism is a problem is not in step with the gospel. Diminishing racism’s impact by constantly countering “black lives matter” with “all lives matter” is not in step with the gospel. And my continually remaining silent when I hear others deride the plight of “those being crushed” is not in step with the gospel either.
If you’ve tended toward silence like I have, please pray and repent with me today.