My neighbor came over to ask me if I knew what was going on with our neighbor. He said there was a man asking questions about him. He pointed out a couple of things that he noticed were different as of late. I had no new information. Actually, I had no information. As he walked away he made a derogatory remark about our neighbor based on his skin color. I was shocked that he called him a name that was meant to be so cutting. Sadly, and embarrassingly, I was silent. I just stood there slack-jawed.
Why didn’t I say anything? I have friends that are the same color as my neighbor. I began to wonder if that is what he thinks about my friends when they come over to visit? I was so mad that I didn’t say anything. I was frustrated and ashamed by my silence. I hate to admit it, but I was afraid to say anything.
What is strange to me is that I am pretty outspoken when someone is getting picked on or bullied. I have stood up to strangers in defense of the ‘little guy.’ I have confronted noisy people in the movie theaters. But with my neighbor, I was silent. That is so frustrating.
Part of what the Gospel is about standing up for those who are marginalized and mistreated. It is about standing up for people that cannot stand up for themselves. It is about speaking for people with no voice. And I didn’t do any of that.
Then I started to think that if fear can immobilize me from something little like this, what makes me think fear doesn’t keep me from doing other things? Would I stand by or stand up in the midst of the civil rights movement? Would I have fought to end slavery? Will I stand against those that are mistreating their children? Would I have been a friend to the Jews in the Holocaust? Would I have stood against Apartheid? Would I have done something if I lived in Rwanda during the massacre? Will I remain silent if this happens again? What will fear keep me from doing? Will I stand by or will I stand up the next time something like this occurs?
We can choose to stand by when the foe seems too big or too powerful. Here are two videos that show just what one person can do when they decide to stand up for what is right.
We have the Spirit of the Living God on our side. If God is for us, who could possibly be against us?
I need courage and wisdom to face the ugliness of this world. I think I need to learn to stand up in those times and not simply stand by.
What about you? Have you ever caught yourself standing by when God would have you stand up?