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When to Speak Up Against Injustice

Recently I came across Oluwayose Macben’s excellent article, 6 Reasons Why You Should Always Speak up Against Injustice.  For the full article, visit. 6 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SPEAK UP AGAINST INJUSTICE.

Here is a quick summary, along with some additional thoughts and reflections.

Oluwayose opens with the consistent challenge and reality of our passivity and offers some possible reasons why we tend to avoid rather than engage – we rather avoid conflict, being seen as foolish or mean.  

I would add that the greatest of these is our tendency towards apathy. Apathy often leads to neutrality, and as Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Now some may argue that is too extreme a statement from Desmond. Still, I would instead stretch us to the complexity of the powerful notion than leave us in the place of neutrality with the hope that maybe a little provocativeness would cause movement in us. 

Oluwayose challenges us by stating, “Is staying silent really worth it, especially when something needs to be said?” 

The key is recognizing when something needs to be said. I have found the following ideas to be helpful on when to speak up or not to speak up.

When to pause: (These are not easy, but pausing helps us to be responsive and not reactive)

Those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined. – Proverbs 13:3

1. If you have not prayed on it or asked what’s God opinion on this issue might be.

2. If you have not looked at the whole issue.

3. If you have not imagined yourself in the same situation. 

4. If no one is asking for your advice.

5. If people are fundamentally safe.

6. If people are not harming themselves or others with their behavior.

7. If you are not willing to engage beyond your opinion.

8. If you can’t be loving. 

And then, after I have gone through that list a couple of times, I use this acrostic to help me process before I speak.

And let’s remember James states,

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19-20

When to speak:

1. When God is urging you to make a stand in love.

2. When words will be seen as a witness to Him and not yourself.

3. When the goal is to make Jesus famous and see people free.

4. When the marginalized or the young can not advocate for themselves.

5. When someone is in danger to themselves or others. 

6. When you are willing to be more than words but also compassionately present. 

And I am reminded of a recent quote: “Loving someone is not the same thing as trying to fix them!”

Oluwayose gives the following six reasons why we should speak up.

1. Silence means approval. 

I appreciated Oluwayose’s insight on this—especially his connection to the witness of our values and desires. I would add that even if you are called to pause in a speech in public, it does mean we have to be silent with our compassion or empathy in private. But remember, not saying something is saying something!

2. You might be the next victim.

           How true that is. We now live in a world that has become harder and harder to hide from. And if you are in Christ, not engaging in the world is not an option. We are called not to be worldly but still called to love the world. 

3. Speaking up gives you a sense of responsibility and fulfillment

           I agree and disagree. I think one of the challenges of biblical justice practitioners is always to keep an eye on motivation. I agree that we should be responsible (stewards) and feel His pleasure (fulfillment). However, we need to be cautious in that our motivation is not for our sense of achievement but rather the ability to help others thrive. 

           3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Eugene Peterson puts it this way in the devotional version, The Message,

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

3. You might be the next victim.

           How true that is. We now live in a world that has become harder and harder to hide from. And if you are in Christ, not engaging in the world is not an option. We are called not to be worldly but still called to love the world. 

4. Speaking up is an act of humanity

I love Oluwayose thoughts on this and how speaking up communicates solidarity and brings renewed hope that we have each other’s back. 

5. Speaking up encourages others to speak up as well

Oluwayose states, “You might never know how influential you are until you speak up against social ills.” And I would add you might never know who is willing to speak up with you until you are courageous enough to act. 

6. Because God wants us to.

Obviously, my favorite suggestion and worth just cutting and pasting Oluwayose’s thoughts:

We should always not neglect the opportunity to voice our opinions on injustice and discrimination in our society because God really wants to see us go the distance for others. This can be evidently seen in the Bible, in the book of proverbs 31: 8- 9 (NIV) which says “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.” Isaiah 1: 17 (NIV) also says asserted the need to stand up for other, it says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Again, highly recommend reading the original article as I am confident it will be encouraging.

But please take some time today and reflect on the ideas Oluwayose shared about speaking up. And reflect on the following questions.

What is the issue of injustice you have been wrestling with, and what is God calling you to say or not?

What’s His voice and heart on the matter?

What is your fear of speaking up?

What is your contribution?

And never be afraid to ask for some help or advice.

22 Plans fail without good advice,
    but they succeed with the advice of many others. – Proverbs 15:22 (NCV)

You are loved!

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