“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Silence is one of the most versatile states of being there is.
On one hand, it can be a place of incredible peace and rest. Have you ever had a season of life where it felt like you were burning the candle at both ends? Or how about the holiday seasons when you are entertaining your entire family, close friends, or both?
When all of the busyness stops and the last guest leaves, the first breath of silence can bring a sense of refuge and calm to our tired, weary souls.
In the pain of deep hurt or loss, a moment of silence has the ability to cut through the noise to help us remember and focus our hearts on deep love and wonderful memories.
Silence can be beautiful.
But on the other hand, silence has this unflinching ability to bring a heaviness of spirit that crushes life instead of giving it.
When your spouse is so furious with you that they quit speaking, that is a scary place to be. The silence of their coldness can be deafening.
Sitting across from your parents as they try to tell you they are getting a divorce, the silence devouring their words so that you are just sitting there staring and wondering how this could happen. It is like daggers to the heart and makes you wish you could find the words to speak that would make it go away.
When people are being violently and systematically oppressed, there is a collective cry that can be heard that begs for someone to see and intervene. But when those cries are met with silence, there is a devastation of the soul that settles like a morning fog over the heart.
As a follower of Jesus, this is why the Gospel is of such vital importance to how I live my days here on Earth. It is the Gospel that reminds me of how I was oppressed by the devastation of sin over my life. But Jesus didn’t sit silently and watch my soul be crushed…He actually intervened on my behalf, going to a cross so that I might be reconciled to God and find life everlasting as we were created to experience.
Jesus was not silent.
But yet, throughout the course of American history, the church here in these United States has often found itself silent in the face of evil and oppression.
We can travel the course of our shared history and it’s lineage. There are many markers along the way, including Slavery, Reconstruction and the Antebellum South, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement.
It’s when we look at that journey that we see the deafening silence and complicit participation by the church when it came to evil, sinful brutality against so many of our brothers and sisters.
This is why the Gospel will not let us be silent. It screams of a pursuing God who did the unthinkable so that we might be rescued and set free. If we are His people, and we have been transformed by THAT truth, then our lives cannot be silent.
This is where I want to pull out my pastor card and speak frankly to you who are reading this today. I read God’s word and see how He ransomed people of every nation, tribe, and tongue and made them family. His heart poured out on the pages of the Scriptures, all testifying of how He desires us to live our lives as rescued people who are desperately seeking to rescue others.
But when I survey the landscape of the church here in my city and across our nation, my heart breaks. It is because we are more known for our willingness to be complicit to the darkness through our silence than we are for being messengers of His marvelous light and hope for the hopeless.
The people of God far too often retreat to our comfortable bubbles and our cancel culture instead of entering into the messiness of our sin and seeking true repentance and healing.
I told you this conversation would be difficult and that is because it is.
We can no longer hide behind the weak excuses of how our racist pasts are behind us. We aren’t going to be afforded the luxury or privilege of trying to just “move on” with our lives and ignore the elephant in the room.
The roots of this sin run so deep into the core of who we are that it is inescapable if we are going to really find the change we are all so desperately seeking. We are going to have to come together and acknowledge the truth of who we are and how we have been shaped by it.
It is only when we are willing to come to the table and have that real, raw conversation that we will be able to begin the process of true healing and reconciliation.
This conversation isn’t causing division…..the division already exists. We have just been too stubborn to truly acknowledge it. Telling ourselves that we have experienced so much progress…
Slavery is over. Jim Crow is no longer. Segregation is not the law anymore.
But no law has the power to change a person’s heart. We are constantly reminded of this every time the news breaks.
This is what God has been telling us all along. Laws don’t change people.
God’s love does.
My prayer is as we continue this conversation tomorrow, we will see that He has made a way and demonstrated how we can break the silence once and for all.