“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe in the words of Dr. King. I believe that it is our job to answer the calls of God in Isaiah and work to bring God’s perfect peace to this world. In a world where we see injustice and inequality we have a responsibility lift our voices.
I also believe that Dr. King’s message was said in a time where he could not fathom the billions of voices on social media.
Dr. King’s message was said in a time where he could not possibly imagine that a few clicks would provide for us the perfect “spin” so that our voices could be heard in just the right way and our arguments won in the perfect fashion.
Within a matter of seconds and 140 characters we can voice our opinions without the fear of face to face meetings, without truly being challenged by different perspectives or experiences, without the fear of being held accountable to our opinions. Sure, there are comment threads and replies, the back and forth vitriol that can come with a stream of consciousness. I’ve been guilty of that myself, but I’ve rarely changed my mind on an important issue by looking at a comment thread.
And so in our time of instant gratification and our voices can immediately say things like,
“This is all the Mayor’s fault! This is all the President’s fault. Sign this petition to kick the mayor out of office! Impeach the president.”
“Thanks Liberal A$$holes.”
“They deserved it.”
And while it’s true that I’m picking the worst tweets and statuses of the many that came across my feed, it’s also true that I read many tweets and statuses that quickly and with much certainty equated the actions of an obviously disturbed and vicious killer with large scale protests of systematic injustices.
Or the irresponsible posts I read from others saying, “How do you spell racist? NYPD.”
As if all 51,000 New York City Police Department employees willfully endorse and perpetuate racist ideals.
I doubt this is what Dr. King had in mind when he asked that we no longer remain silent.
The choking death of Eric Garner has shined a light on systematic injustice and inequality in our city. The choking death of Eric Garner begs of us to pray and work for change, equality, and peace. It begs us to take action and work toward the perfect peace that God intends for this world.
The shooting deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu have shined a light on the risks our police force take everyday simply by putting on a uniform. The shooting deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu beg us to pray and work for an end to violence. They beg us to take action and work toward the perfect peace that God intends for this world.
How will we respond to the call to end violence?
How will we respond to the call to bring peace and end injustice?
The real courage of lifting our voices, the real courage of not remaining silent comes in the expectations that we will be held accountable to our voices and our words.
The real courage in lifting our voices comes in our ability to live in the tension of our words and thoughts.
The real courage in not staying silent is that fact that once our words are spoken, we now have a mandate to listen.
So I for one will answer the call to end violence and injustice by staying silent...well, sort of.
I will speak up. I will march for equality and an end to violence. I will carry out God’s intention for shalom in this world, and yes, if it’s important enough I may even take to social media.
But more importantly I will listen.
Yes, in our time of promoting and applauding narcissistic tendencies and getting our voices heard, I am going to listen to others.
The simple act of listening means that we’re implicitly saying to others that their perspectives, opinions, stories, and lives matter. Our listening says that your perspective is one that’s worth considering and learning.
How do we Listen?
Right now I want you to stop reading this article for a few seconds. Go and pick up your phone. Scroll through the last 10 numbers that you called or texted.
My guess is that the last 10 people that we called or texted are like minded individuals. They look like us, have similar backgrounds, live in the same socioeconomic group, and have similar opinions and ideas. The ones that we call or text are the closest to us.
If our closest friends are similar then it means that we’re only paying attention to affirming voices. That means we’re not holding ourselves accountable. It means that we’re only willing to listen so long as the people talking have the same ideas and think the same thoughts.
What if we took the challenge of listening to the voices outside of our own worldview?
I have my own ideas and biases. Taking time to listen to the stories of others reminds me that I don’t have all the answers and that my life story is not more significant than others. It reminds me that I often miss the whole story or the big picture. It reminds me that not everything can be answered with complete certainty. It reminds me that my flippant words can hurt and bring division when our job as Christ followers is to bring the perfect peace and unity of Jesus Christ.
Today in the midst of all of the tension, in the midst of division, in the midst of our stream of consciousness ramblings and instant opinions, I’m asking you to stay silent, well….sort of.
I’m asking you to bring change to the systematic inequality and injustice of our city as evidenced by the death of Eric Garner. I’m asking you to bring change to the senseless violence of our New York CIty Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu and so many others. I’m asking you to do this not by opening your mouth or jumping on your keyboard, I’m asking you to search out others and to listen.
Nothing that we say today can teach us anything new. If we’re truly called to learn, to unity, equality, and peace, we must do it by listening.
Senior Pastor, Forefront Church