What will you stand up for? As people of faith, we are constantly challenged to consider how we are called to live out what we believe throughout our lives. Does our faith make a difference in our jobs, in our relationships, and in how we live our lives as citizens of a nation? It’s the last one that often challenges us the most.
I see many Christians today who are more worried about their breakfast choices for Sunday morning than the struggling family who is trying to live on minimum wage. Many people of faith would prefer to complain about whether a football player kneels, sits, or stands during the playing of the National Anthem rather than really learn about and discuss the issues facing the African American community today. Too many of us in the church are more concerned about our own well being rather than seeking the common good. What is the church willing to stand up for today?
Our faith calls us to action. It’s the message of Scripture. It’s a part of our faith tradition and heritage. Yet something always challenges me in my spirit. To stand up for a cause or issue is too controversial. What will people think? Does it even make a difference? I sometimes wonder all of these things. As I considered whether I should attend a day of action at our Indiana State House my wife challenged me, as she often does, and asked me “What do I stand for?”.
Every Christian has to reflect on that question, “What are you willing to stand for?” I can’t speak for others, but I know that my faith calls me to action and advocacy. I can’t see it any other way.
I read the prophets of the Old Testament who refer often to those who legislate evil or make unjust laws, who deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice (Isaiah 10: 1-2) and I can’t sit down. I read the New Testament letters and hear that I have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence while ignoring the pay of others (James 5: 4-6) and I have to stand up for the poor. I learned as a child that all of humanity was created in God’s image (Genesis 1-2) yet I see continued discrimination against minority communities today in our nation and I can’t ignore the injustice. I didn’t even add the Gospel passages that speak to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, inviting the stranger, taking care of the sick, visit those in prison (Matthew 25), proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and setting the oppressed free (Luke 4).
What am I willing to stand for? I am willing to stand for the Bible that calls me to pursue justice. I am willing to stand for and with Jesus who calls me to love my neighbor. I am willing to stand for and with the working poor, the immigrant, the disenfranchised, the outcast, the discriminated, the unloved, the homeless, those working for racial justice, economic justice, and environmental justice. I stand, because if I sit down, I am not being faithful to the God who has called me and all of us to stand up for justice and pray with our feet.
The green stole in the picture is a stole from a retired United Methodist pastor. This is my “protest stole.” I never meant it to be, but that’s what it has become. I have worn this stole as I walked with immigrants in Chicago praying for a just immigration legislation. I have worn this stole on the steps of the Indiana State House, while standing on street corners, holding signs, and walking with brothers and sisters in faith. While I am not expert in the issues stated above, I know that there are people who are impacted everyday by the laws and policies of our government. These are not just political issues to me, these are faith issues with real people, real faces, real families who are affected.
The social reformer, abolitionist, and writer, Fredrick Douglass, wrote, “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” I have also thought of the famous line by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who linked arms with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 and wrote about that experience, “I felt my feet were praying.”
I stand, because through my study of Scripture, my prayer, and service, I sense God calling me to pursue justice (Deut 16: 20). I don’t know how else to be a Christian. When I begin to question this call into the work of justice and say “I don’t want to protest,” I try to remember the call of God to stand up, pray with my feet, and pursue justice.