“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
This quote by retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been making its rounds online as we see America and the rest of the world rallying around what happened to George Floyd.
Netizens are enraged by those with influence who needed time to process the situation and gather their thoughts, comparing them to the young and tech-savvy generation who immediately took to social media to advocate for change.
It seems that many are putting their focus exclusively on what is seen on social media and the speed at which messages appear after the incident, turning it into a “woke contest”. Yet we see celebrities receiving backlash for responding too quickly without considering the wider implications.
It was also reported that supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement were upset about the black squares filling up the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on #BlackoutTuesday, burying relevant and important content.
It’s hard to please everyone in this social media age.
I want to first commend every one of our brothers and sisters who have spoken up boldly with godly wisdom and love for this cause, who have been guided by the Spirit in their responses, and who truly represented God’s way of justice. I acknowledge every good intention and effort to bring God’s love and light into this situation.
However, I can’t help but notice that there is also a certain degree of thoughtless reposting going on, driven by expectations and the pressure to participate. What began as a genuine display of solidarity may have turned into a reposting spree for some.
There was a #BlackLivesMatter tag that was circulating on Instagram Stories that urged one to “tag 10 people who won’t break the chain”. I have to admit that I participated in it because of the pressure of not breaking the chain.
But as I thought about what would Jesus want us to do in this situation, I couldn’t help but wonder what He would say if he saw us simply jumping on the bandwagon and participating in the ever-growing number of social media trends for fear of “breaking the chain” and being called racist.
Yes, every voice does matter in speaking out against injustice. But we should be careful to check our true intentions for participating and seek to carry the heart of God in everything we do.
Because many times it’s the fear of man that leads us by our noses.
There’s a danger of virtue-signalling – joining the conversation to make ourselves look good. But His Word often reminds us to look inwardly before justifying any outwardly good actions.
These are some questions that we can ask ourselves before diving headfirst into these trends:
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
The heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9), so we are asked to guard it well (Proverbs 4:23).
Many times it’s the fear of man that leads us by our noses.
For those of us who truly care about the issue and would like to show our support, let us exercise discernment as well.
We are confronted with a billion different trends supporting the black community each day, making it important to ask God for direction to seek out not only credible but also godly sources that advocate for change God’s way.
Many have also begun to realise the Black Lives Matter movement is about amplifying the voices of the marginalised, not saturating the conversation with our own.
As such, it’s always good to begin with listening to real needs, not a mash-up of internet voices.
If you have yet to feel strongly about this situation and therefore have not been compelled to take action, instead of feeling stressed and pressured to participate in spreading messages that crowd out the important and impactful ones, may I encourage you to pray and seek God for the appropriate response(s).
Bringing our petitions to God and interceding for the people before Him may be one of the best things we can do in this situation before starting on anything else.
The world defines silence by the standards of human ears and eyes (words on social media). But don’t forget the most powerful weapon we have as children of God – prayer.
While prayer seems silent to the world (Matthew 6:6), it is certainly powerful. When divine ears lean down to listen, things change in the supernatural realm.
When Peter was unjustly imprisoned in Acts 12, following Herod’s persecution to please the Jewish people, we learn that “the church prayed very earnestly for him”. We know that God came through for Peter as we later read about his effortless escape from the high-security prison.
What the early church did was indeed silence to the world, but it was the loudest display of faith to God. God heard and answered, doing what mere human strength and wisdom could never achieve.
The best listener is God, especially in times when we need Him to work in the hearts of people to change things. Only God can do what is deeper and much needed.
God works in His own perfect time and uses His people differently for His purposes.
After praying and allowing God to share His heart with us, we can then be vessels to carry His voice to the people, bearing His message of peace, love and justice.
There are many organisations and official social media accounts out there listing practical steps we can take to support the black community, and they are more comprehensive and relevant than I can ever hope to be in this article.
For instance, the Black Lives Matter Card summarises all the actionable steps we can take (still, it’s good to exercise discretion as some of the links may advocate for other beliefs incongruent with our faith).
In addition to championing the causes of issues far from home, let us also not neglect the injustices on our own soil just because they are not topics trending on Twitter.
There are local organisations raising awareness for the plight of our migrant workers. Another kind of discrimination we tend to overlook is that of our “invisible” low-wage workers, an issue that can see much improvement through simple changes in our daily speech and actions towards them.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8). But God works in His own perfect time and uses His people differently for His purposes. After all, we are not the repairman but just tools in God’s toolbox. And each tool is used for a different purpose to complete the greater work.
God’s advice is different for everyone. Some are called to pray and intercede, some are to be God’s mouthpiece to speak out in love, some are led to lay the groundwork in the community like Pastor Samuel Lim, who is passionate about overcoming barriers closer to home.
Whichever cause God leads us to champion and speak for, let the noise we make be worthwhile. In this social media age, what is crucial is the quality of our messages and not merely sheer quantity.
Let us not be pressured to follow what others are doing, but ask God to teach us how to be sensitive to His Spirit, so that we can be effective whenever, wherever and in whatever we do. For His glory.