Monday, 12 November 2012
Reflection: The Prophetic Voice
Zechariah 7:10, Isaiah 1:23-24
In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me -
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
- Pastor Martin Niemoller
Neimoller's quote tells us the danger of neglecting the church's role as prophet in society. I don't mean "prophecy" in the way it's sometimes interpreted as predicting the future, but "prophecy" in the Biblical sense - the call to justice. God requires that we are just and compassionate to those who have less, or who are vulnerable. When those with power choose to disregard the needs of the powerless, they are setting themselves up against God's will.
In Biblical times, prophets were often not welcomed for their message. In Neimoller's day, if he had taken a prophetic stance, the Gestappo would probably have come for him sooner.
In our day, if Christians speak out about injustice towards vulnerable people, there is still resistance.
Athiests say Christians have no right to speak out on political issues. (I know in Australia we don't have a constitutional right to freedom of religion, but we also don't have any laws preventing people of any faith from having a political opinion.)
Christians who have a narrower understanding of Scripture say, but those people are sinners, you can't align yourself with them. Read your Bible! (I did read my Bible. In it Jesus spent almost all his time with the sinners, ate in their homes and celebrated with them, even defended them. He often argued with the holy people who didn't want to hang out with sinners.)
Others will say, but we didn't have a meeting to discuss it a committee hasn't decided it, or we need to leave it up to the moderator to say that.
When it comes down to it, God calls us all, at times, to be prophets.
When we see anyone being treated with less than the love and respect that they deserve because they are made in the image of God, then we have a responsibility to say what we know: that God does not approve of this treatment.
We don't have to be asylum seekers to speak up for asylum seekers. We don't have to be pensioners to speak up for pensioners. We don't have to be disabled to speak up for people who are disabled. We don't have to be gay, to speak up for gay people. We don't have to be indigenous, to speak up for indigenous people. We don't have to be children to speak up for the needs of children.
All we have to do, is to know the God whose love for the poor, the widowed, the orphan, the foreigner, the outcast, the person who is isolated or vulnerable, is more important than any pressure that we might ever feel to keep silent.