I recently watched the film ‘Suffragettes’, the early twentieth century story of the struggle of women to win the right to vote in the UK. It powerfully reminded me of the cost, courage and persistence that is needed to make a stand for something you believe in.
History is full of examples of people who stand up and speak out for what they believe to be true. Often it is in the name of justice, truth and God. They may be whistleblowers at the workplace, activists in a street protest, artists who defy totalitarian regimes, or just people of compassion and conviction that are not afraid to voice their beliefs in a hostile environment.
I was very privileged recently to visit Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town where Nelson Mandela and other prisoners were brutally held for their stand against the evils of apartheid. Solitary confinement, hard labour, daily humiliation, cramp and the loneliness of separation from family and friends was part of the heavy price Mandela and his followers paid for their defiance. For more on my trip to South Africa, where I attended the International Fresh Expressions Conference, click here.
The Bible is full of stories of people who were prepared to face severe opposition when living out their Godly beliefs. One of the first songs I learnt at Sunday School was ‘Dare to be a Daniel’. This simple song encourages Christ followers not to melt into the culture and conform to everything around them. We are not to be status quo people, but rather Jesus calls us all to be prepared to be different, even when our difference will cause us shame or pain.
I still remember a vivid children’s address with a big photo of a chameleon and the reminder that unlike these creatures that just blend in everywhere they go, Christ followers are called to be true to their colours. We live at a time where Christian beliefs and Christian convictions are either ignored, opposed or ridiculed. Whereas, once the Christian world view was normative in our society, today it is marginalised and trivialised. It would be tempting to remain silent, but the gospel is about word and deed.
Jesus challenges us to love our neighbour and therefore love our community and our country and to speak up and out when anyone is being hurt, humiliated, hounded or hated. Sometimes this means challenging governments of all shades and standing up for truth against falsehood, love against prejudice, and hope against despair.
Being committed to the way of Jesus sometimes puts us in conflict with the way of the world. Whether it’s in our prayers, conversations, letter writing or our street marching, let us be a people under God, who are unafraid or unashamed to stand.
As the really old hymn put it: “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.”
Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church WA