I have grown up with the idea that our role as Seventh-day Adventists was to preach the “gospel.” This gospel focused on defending the 10 commandments, especially the Sabbath, and a focus on doing the right “things: not going to watch movies, dressing appropriately, not eating meat, and so forth.” Speaking about social issues, such as racism and poverty, or community outreach that wasn’t explicitly aimed at drawing people to a Bible study or a Daniel/Revelation seminar wasn’t celebrated or even encouraged. The thought was that we couldn’t fix everything, and instead needed to keep our eyes on the ball by spreading the “gospel” as far and wide as we can. After all, “Jesus is coming soon!”
As our country and nation dealt with different issues, such as police brutality and treatment of immigrants, among others, I was often counseled by some well-meaning friends, loved ones and church leaders not get mixed up in issues that would cause controversy and division in the church. On the other hand, I watched some friends in the ministry break the norm by actively speaking up about social issues affecting communities and churches.
I felt torn. Meanwhile, I witnessed an exodus from the church of fellow millennials due to their perception of a disconnect between our message, Scripture, and our actions. We preach about love for our neighbor, what it means to be a Good Samaritan, defending the weak and the fatherless, while repeatedly walking right past our brothers and sisters in Christ who’ve repeatedly been beaten by our country’s unfair systems and left for dead by the side of the road. We’ve failed to acknowledge their plights, offer words of comfort, or speak on their behalf when our voices could have made a difference.
As I prayed and became a student, listening, asking questions and thinking, I’ve come to realize that the Bible is very clear about what we Christians ought to do when we witness unfairness and injustice: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8,9).
I have concluded that it is not Christlike to remain quiet when any segment of our society is being subjected to injustice! We must clearly and loudly speak up to condemn and actively reject racism and any other forms of oppressive evil within our society.
In the words of the great MLK, “[t]he ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”
Daniel Birai is pastor of Fort Collins Church in Colorado.