I have been to two such nations
It is hard to know how to respond to the situation when the President of our country is purported to have made a slanderous and vulgar remark against underdeveloped countries that is being widely reported and hardly denied.
In my position as a spiritual leader who has traveled for ministry to two such nations, including twice to Haiti, I cannot help but respond. As I thought about it, I have some suggestions for us all.
But first, at the outset, I would say that because of the love of those whom I have met in Haiti and Zambia, I am offended on your behalf. Let me recall just one incident. As my time as a Bible teacher was nearing conclusion in Zambia, one day I was sitting in the back observing a student-led chapel service. The students came back to me and asked me if they could pray for me. I will never forget being seated in the center of the circle at the front of the chapel, surrounded by, covered by, blessed by praying hands over me. I lived for months in the aura of that prayer. I am deeply offended for my friends. I do not even remember being remotely aware that I may have been the only white-skinned person in the service that day. It was not relevant. One who says such things as the President is reported to have said has never sat where I sat.
- First, the situation is certainly a call to prayer. When things like this occur, it aggravates the polarization of our country. We need to pray against such increased division. It takes our focus as persons and as a nation off what it needs to be on. If a person happens to be Republican in political persuasion, it is doubly a call to prayer as such things are embarrassing and fracturing to your party. Remember we are called in Scripture to pray for those who are over us (1 Tim. 2:1, 2).
- Second, this week’s presidential slur is a call to make our own position as Christ followers known. Silence is still often construed as agreement. We affirm that Jesus loves all people and calls men and women of every nation to follow him and to love one another. We must make our position clear.
“In a statement to the church from the President of the Council of Bishops, Bruce Ough writes, “We call on all United Methodists, all people of faith, and the political leadership of the United States to speak up and speak against such demeaning and racist comments.”
In his response to the situation, Bishop Bickerton continued with a quote from Martin Luther King whose memory we honor tomorrow.
"On this weekend before Martin Luther King Day, it would do us well to remember the words Dr. King wrote from a Birmingham jail. Dr. King said, 'We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.'"
- Third, just because the President stoops to use vulgar language is no excuse for others to start doing so. I can’t believe the Facebook pages and news sources where I have seen the word he used, sources that would previously have never even thought about using such a word or printing such a word themselves. But because the President said it, somehow it’s okay? Beware! The Bible admonishes plainly that obscene and vulgar talk is out of place for Christians (Eph. 5:4). May our standards of speech and writing remain high.
- Fourth, we need to look for ways to take action to make a positive difference. Extend a hand of friendship to a co-worker of a different race or ethnic background. Assist an immigrant in their quest to learn English or get citizenship or a job. Work for a cause that helps refugees or storm victims from Puerto Rico, for example (Gal. 5:6). Actively love!
- Fifth, this sequence of events is a reminder to us that character matters. Character matters when we select leaders of local organizations. Character matters when we elect officials for our country. My character matters and yours does too. Every day we are making decisions that either strengthen our own characters and make them more Christ-like or compromise them. If we compromise them, sooner or later our words will betray us. If we build our character by the Holy Spirit’s help, we will be better prepared for the challenges ahead and others will be able to rely upon us to be faithful, diligent, and trustworthy (Rom. 12:2).