Without Action Against Injustice, Our Words (and Feelings Of Outrage) Mean Nothing
Jesus isn’t impressed by our feelings of moral outrage at injustice.
by Karen Swanson and Wendy Martin
The influx of Jewish refugees into the United States during World War II led to a significant increase in the level of anti-Semitism in this country. The 1947 Academy Award winning film Gentleman’s Agreement confronted this blatant discrimination in areas such as jobs, housing, health care, and social structures.
Toward the end of the film, we see a conversation between Kathy and Dave, a life-long Jewish American. Kathy declared to Dave that she is not prejudiced, which she supported with the fact that she conceived of the writing of an article on anti-Semitism. She went on to reinforce her open-mindedness by telling Dave how offended she was when a man at a dinner party told a bigoted joke and used racial slurs.
Dave responded by asking Kathy what she did. She replied, “I wanted to yell at him. I wanted to get up and leave. I wanted to say to everyone at that table, ‘Why do we sit here and take it when he is attacking everything we believe in?’” Rather than responding, Dave repeated the questions and asked what she did. She replied, “I just sat there, I felt ashamed. We all just sat there.”
Kathy ultimately realized that sitting there condoned the prejudices. Without action, nothing would change.
Like Kathy, many of us just sit there when we are faced with the realization of the things that break God’s heart. We hear of prejudice or sexual slavery or poverty or of unsaved people, but we just sit there. Like Kathy, we may feel ashamed or get upset when people attack everything we believe in; however, many of us stay at the table and do nothing. We congratulate ourselves on our personal feelings of outrage or on our good intentions to do something—similar to Kathy’s idea of writing the article, but we never act. We never fight.
Jesus doesn’t give us the option of not fighting. He isn’t impressed by our feelings of moral outrage at injustice. He asks us to fix things. But, like Kathy, we frequently rationalize our inaction. We may rationalize that we don’t have the skills or heart to change something. Or we rationalize that someone may do things better. For example, we rationalize not sharing the gospel because we’re not gifted in evangelism. We rationalize not feeding the poor because we’re not gifted in helps, or we rationalize not tutoring at-risk youth because we’re not gifted at teaching.
God, however, calls us to do something, even if it is not in a specific area of our giftedness. Some examples include: care for the earth (Gen. 1), care for the poor, widow, the orphan (Isa. 10:2), welcome the alien and stranger (Deut. 10:18-19), to speak up for those who are oppressed (Prov. 31:8-9), to be generous with those in need (Acts 10:2), to care for the sick, visit the prisoner, and to provide food, drink, and clothing for those in need (Matt. 25:34-40).
SOURCE: Christianity Today: The Exchange