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Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I’m an activist at heart.  I feel my blood boil when I think of the powerful exploiting the weak, the many taking advantage of the few, or the privileged oppressing the less privileged.   This does not always result in godliness in me.  It can lead me to speaking too quickly (selfishly wanting to "unload" and not lovingly and prayerfully discerning timing--which is important even when speaking what is true) and not resting in God's timing and plan (sinfully trying to control, being impatient, not trusting in God, and becoming judgmental of my brother).    And too often, my frustration with injustice can sinfully lead me to bitterness or misplaced hope.  This inevitably results when I allow my anger and brokenhearted-ness to be divorced from the perspective of eternal gospel hope in Christ. Accordingly, I have to acknowledge, guard against, and fight against these propensities toward sin in myself.  The best way for me to do this to be rooted in the gospel—the reality that:
1)      I, along with my fellow human beings, have betrayed the only good, perfect, almighty, all-loving, all wise, creator God;

2)      the just penalty of this betrayal and subsequent defilement is death and separation from a Perfect God;

3)      our God is so good and loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself for us, paying the just penalty of our sin so that we could be with Him forever if we believe in Him and follow Him in faith;

4)      He gives us access to Him, not just in the future in heaven, but also right now through His Word and His Spirit and through prayer; 

5)      He is changing us from the inside out, giving us faith, new desires, and power to follow Him;

6)      God is working all things in this world for His glory and the good of His people, in such a way that our character will be in line with His, what is wrong will be righted, and the pain of this life will seem like a “light and momentary affliction” when compared to the “eternal weight of glory” that He is bringing about through the things of this life.

When I am rooted in this gospel (which means “good news”), I can seek the Lord’s counsel and wait on Him, trusting His sovereignty, wisdom, goodness, and power despite the horrors I see in my heart and in this world.  When I am rooted in the gospel, I can trust that He is at work in my heart and the hearts of my brothers and sisters, even when I do not understand or even when I can see blatant sin.  When I am rooted in the gospel, I can acknowledge the afflictions of life and yet not be consumed by them because I already have the all surpassing joy of knowing Jesus and I have great hope in what He is doing that my eye cannot see.  When I am rooted in the gospel, I can have love, compassion, forgiveness, hope and peace for those who sin against and harm me or others. 
Obviously, none of us are purely activists all the time or purely those who wait all the time, but most of us have a tendency towards one of these directions.  And one propensity is not better than the other.  What about you, where do you fall?  Are you an activist too, or do your tendencies swing in the other direction?  The godly side of not having an activist tendency can be mercifulness, forbearance, patience, faith, peacefulness, and gentleness.  These are godly, honorable, and precious qualities that we all should seek to cultivate!  However, some of the propensities towards sin for those who do not have activist personalities can be apathy, selfishness, laziness, partiality, fear of man and other things, and lack of faith and love that is unwilling to speak truth or to do hard things or to stand up for others until our own well-being is on the line.  Again, the answer to the propensity towards sin here is still the gospel.  The gospel gives us power to love as Christ loves.  When we apathetically or fearfully fail to stand up for or reach out to our brother, we fail to love our brother—this same person who was lovingly made in the image and likeness of God and for whom Jesus gave His precious life!! This is no small sin!  Yet, Christ demonstrates to us a different way! When we were without hope in our sin, Christ, out of His great love, stood up and did something for us!  God spoke out to us and for us!  He reached out to us. He loved us at great cost to Himself.  Christ did the hard things of faith and love-- forsaking His reputation, comfort, privilege, etc. to rescue those who betrayed Him.  Christ did not follow the powerful or popular or winsome.  He invested in and even stood up for the “nobodies” of this world—those who were obviously imperfect and despised or rejected or not even noticed by the “somebodies” of His time.   Christ did not throw away or abandon the sinful and imperfect.  Christ allowed His reputation to be maligned and slandered by spiteful and/or ignorant lies for the sake of rescuing the lost.  Christ endured great persecution so that He could win our salvation.  Christ spoke the truth, even though He knew He would suffer for it. His example in the gospel compels us to love in this way.  From the Old Testament to the New, the Scriptures repeatedly and explicitly direct us to love in this way!

My dear friend, Wendy, wrote an excellent blog that talks more about the phenomenon “when good men do nothing”.  It can be found here:

I have also posted her full blog article, “When Good Men Do Nothing” below. 

Here is a blogpost of mine that speaks a little to this theme as well:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gospel!!  Thank you that it is the answer for us, no matter who we are and no matter what strengths or weaknesses and sin we possess.  Father, give us humble hearts to soberly assess ourselves and our character.  Speak into our lives with your truth.  Speak to us about ways that our heart and life are not in line with your gospel.  Show us specific situations in our life where you are calling us to repentance.  Show us what repentance looks like and give us the strength to obey where you lead, even if it comes at great cost to ourselves.  Fill our hearts with gospel love for those around us.  Protect us from sinning against our brother and displaying a lack of love through bitterness, judgmental-ness, or a lack of gospel faith and hope.  Protect us from sinning against our brother and displaying a lack of love by failing to act, failing to stand up against injustice, failing to reach out to those who are suffering, and by simply being apathetic.  Help us to be rooted and established in gospel love.  As you teach us about yourself and mature us, may your work be demonstrated in us through ever increasing love for you, for our family and friends, for our neighbors, for strangers, and even for those who have harmed us.  Give us this radical love.  Awaken your church and forgive your church for our apathy and rebellion.  Fill us with courage and faith and power.  Help us to live in the hope and freedom of the gospel!!  In Jesus Name, Amen

From Wendy’s blog:

When Good Men Do Nothing

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke

It's been painful to watch the fallout of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. The subject has inspired numerous Christian blog posts. One of the best I have read is from a Penn State Campus Crusade for Christ staffer. You can read it here. Probably enough has been said, yet unraveling the answer to the question of what causes good men and women to do nothing at times in the face of evil seems important to me.

I love football and have respected Joe Paterno as a coach over the years. It saddens me to see his incredible career end in such a way. What saddens me most is that I think, in terms of character, Joe Paterno is a respectable man. Yet, this respectable man allowed a very bad thing to go on under his nose. And not just him – there's a whole slew of men who should have known better who allowed the worst kind of abuse of a minor to happen on their watch. They closed their ears and turned away. How did that happen?!

Some have expressed concern about how Paterno and others have been treated in the wake of the allegations. I think this stems in part from the disturbing idea for many of us that we might have reacted exactly the same way. We too might have wrestled for days over what to report to higher ups and how to paint what we did report. We too might have let it go after doing the bare minimum needed to ease our conscience. I could easily see myself at certain stages of my life numbing my conscience on the issue with words like “Well, I reported it to my authority. I did what was required of me. I can't help it if they don't do more. I've done my responsibility.”

Penn State's football program is legendary. Joe Paterno ran a tight ship. The men in charge of that program--Athletic Director, Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, and so forth--were respected and revered. They were obeyed. It was not unlike authoritarian church and ministry structures with which I have been involved over the years. In those systems, the good guys are the ones who respect authority. They buck it up and contribute even when they dislike an order. Respect, cooperation, and obedience to your superiors are fundamental to the entire system. I have empathy for the young graduate assistant who first witnessed his boss raping a minor in the locker room. I'm sure he was shocked and horrified. What do you do when your authority in this authoritarian system is the one doing this act? The GA didn't intervene. And I fear that when I was his age, I may not have intervened either. At least not immediately. Now 41 years old and the mother of children myself, no one could stop me if I witnessed that today. But back then, I valued respect of authority so much that I fear I would have been paralyzed in the moment, to my life long regret.

The graduate assistant finally told his dad, and his dad helped him tell Coach Paterno. Both seemed to meet their minimum legal requirement. Yet neither stopped the cycle of abuse that continued for several more years. Why? The Campus Crusade pastor points out in his article the deficiency of love for the victim. That is the fundamental, root issue. But a secondary issue is that they all thought they had more to lose by standing up strongly for the victims than they did by protecting the program. Obviously, they were very, very wrong and have lost much more by covering it up. The urge to stand up for a little guy none of them knew faded in the shadow of the behemoth that was the Penn State football program.

Good men do nothing a lot. Good women too. We do nothing sometimes out of self protection. But more often, I think we do nothing because we value protecting authoritarian systems more than we do standing up for the victim. I've experienced this before in various Christian ministries—a leader with authority does wrong. But the reputation of the institution and those associated with it seems more important than seeking justice for the one abused or oppressed. I could write out a long list of names of good men and women I know personally, men and women of proven character and good reputation, who did not stand up for victims and instead protected a program or ministry. I've done it myself at times. Rocking the boat didn't seem a Christian virtue in that moment.

Though good church people often value submission to authority over advocacy for the oppressed, God is clear on what we need to do with abusive authority.

Isaiah 1:17
17learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

Psalm 82:3
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Psalm 10:18
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Proverbs 31:9
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

God calls us to step up for the poor and defenseless. Be aware of our propensity to turn away and hear clearly God's command to engage. And if you have been silent or turned away, humble yourself and make it right. If the gospel is truly our foundation in Christian ministry, we have hope for redemption and transformation when we choose humble responses that seek to correct our mistakes. Humble repentance, not defensiveness, is the absolute key to dealing with past failures, and meditation on God's strong admonition to do justice for the oppressed is key for the future.