This post is also available in Spanish.
“A Soul of Conviction, A Voice of Courage” is a phrase that Biola University used a few years ago and that fittingly reflects the necessary attitude we need to face the present situation we are experiencing. In these moments in which the world faces a global pandemic that has affected and will continue to alter the life and economy of all the inhabitants of the planet, in the United States the deep wound of racism has been uncovered once again. It has always been present, but videos and social media have exposed it in such a way that it cannot longer be ignored or hidden. Protests and demonstrations across the country are crying out for justice and equity for all, but especially for African Americans who have unfortunately been victims of racism and discrimination by a nation that, in theory, but not in practice, says that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” This situation must change and as followers of Christ we need to be an essential part of this urgent change.
In our fight for justice and equity we are not alone, but the Holy Spirit is with us. In fact, the Bible declares that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). The liberty that the Holy Spirit offers encompasses all spheres of life and is through the presence and power of the Spirit that as Christians we can be agents of peace (Shalom) and reconciliation. A few months ago, I had the privilege of publishing the book Anointed Teaching: Partnership with the Holy Spirit with the great Christian educator Robert Pazmiño. The first section of the book addresses different areas in which the Holy Spirit offers freedom to all and how God by his grace allows us to partner in the work of the Holy Spirit. The chapter "Teaching and Freedom of Speech and Expression" explains the ways in which we can advocate for others with a soul of conviction and with a voice of courage due to the power of the Holy Spirit. I would like to share some paragraphs of this chapter to encourage us not to be afraid but to unite our voices to the purposes of liberation of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized.
Christian teaching cannot remain silent in the present difficulties around us. In fact, silence demonstrates a clear position of indifference for the needs of other people. The reverend Martin Luther King Jr. rightly pointed out in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail the following: “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.” Believers cannot remain silent or remain on the sidelines against injustices. We cannot remain neutral when some people are facing oppression as Desmond Tutu reminds us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Therefore, as Christian educators we are called to use our liberty of expression to defend and support those who are marginalized. Obviously, our task is to remain faithful to the Lord and to teach the Word of God. When we do it, we honor what God honors and we value what God values. Teaching with the Spirit’s leading always desires the edification and wellbeing of others. Bernard of Clairvaux rightly clarifies the difference that our knowledge and teaching makes when we focus on others, “Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: this is curiosity; others seek knowledge so that they themselves may be known: that is vanity; but there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others: and that is charity.”
As Christian leaders we need to speak on behalf of those who are oppressed and to seek that people listen to their voices … For everyone in our society, but especially for followers of Christ is extremely important that we acknowledge the voices of those who long for justice, equality and dignity. The Bible teaches that all men and women are created in the image of God and that all people have intrinsic value and dignity (Gen. 1:27) …Therefore, any activity that diminishes the value and dignity of any human being must be rejected and punished.
Our Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry also illustrates to us how the Holy Spirit’s anointing was the source of his words and that his message brought hope to those who were oppressed. Luke 4:14-15 describes the beginning of Jesus' public ministry where his teaching and the Holy Spirit’s power always were together, “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.” Therefore, Jesus proclaimed with complete clarity that his calling was to announce to everybody the good news of the kingdom of God. Luke continues the story with Jesus proclamation of his messianic ministry in Nazareth, the town where he grew up. Jesus read in the synagogue a passage from the prophet Isaiah that clearly defined his mission on earth:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
Teaching centered in Christ and directed by the Holy Spirit brings a message of deliverance. This message recovers voice and agency for teachers and students to defend those in need.
These are not the times to keep quiet waiting for the storm to pass. On the contrary, God invites us to have “a soul of conviction, a voice of courage” in defense of others through the Holy Spirit who invites us to join in his work to bring peace and reconciliation to this much-needed world. The anointing of the Holy Spirit uses our words and actions and not our silence to proclaim that God is present, that all human beings are valuable and that Jesus wants us to enjoy the fullness of the abundant life that he desires for all of us.