If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible. (Read the rest of the chapter, here.)
In the middle of drafting this post I found out Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. It’s a terrible setback for achieving equality in this country. I am grieved and worried by this loss, as I know many of you are. The best way we can honor RBG is to continue to fight for equality on all fronts, something I had been thinking about while writing, but now seems even more salient having lost such a hero and protector of rights.
God gives us so much grace. In essence, this chapter is a giant “I know you are going to make mistakes, but here are all the way you can make good when you realize you made one.” Notice, in particular, verse four and five:
“or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt— 5 when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned.”
“Guilt” is not accrued when the offending action is taken. Guilt is only accrued when the offending party becomes aware of the offending action. God meets us where we are: asking us to learn first, then act accordingly.
And God knows we have different abilities and capacities. Not everyone is required to bring a lamb as a sin offering, because not everyone can afford it. God gives a sliding scale of atonement. Those who cannot afford a lamb can submit two doves, and those who cannot afford two doves can bring some flour. God again meets us where we are: giving us grace and options before requiring action.
God’s grace is wonderful. But I think, all too often, we rely too much on it. If we are truly living as Christians, it is not enough to admit to our “sin,” and thank God for being so gracious. We need to act, to offer the proverbial sin offering, so to speak. The requirement of this chapter, and truly the model for Christian living, is two-fold: learn, then act. It is not enough to simply learn.
Indeed, the opening lines of this chapter focus upon action, calling the faithful to “speak up when they hear a public charge to testify.” Today, we are being called to testify on behalf of our siblings, our country, our very world. As I discussed in my last post, we have become aware of so many unintentional sins. Perhaps you were not aware of just how bad the rate of climate change is. Perhaps you were not aware of structural racism. Perhaps you were not aware of the US (and Canada) violating sovereign land rights of tribes for pipelines and other projects, or of the dire situations in South America that force refugees to our southern border, or of worsening humanitarian crises in Yemen, Syria, and Afganistan. But now you do know, now we all know, and denial and inaction are now inexcusable.
I know I just gave you a lot of crises – and no one person is going to be able to solve them all, so please don’t feel overwhelmed. Remember, God meets us where we are, and simply asks that we try a little better once we know. Small steps can make a difference. If every American adult donated just $10 more that would be over $2 billion for charities and other causes. If we continue the work-from-home trend started by the pandemic, we could keep literal tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. If even just half of American adults called their representatives once a year that would be one million opinions publicly and officially voiced. If 65% of the voting population turned out (as opposed to the average 55% of the last four presidential elections) we might have very different policies being passed by very different politicians. Again, these are little things, tiny nudges. But they do make a difference.
Focus on Gender Equality in honor of RBG
This week, let’s honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memory by remembering the marginalized. RBG was a particular champion of gender equality, so I’m going to focus on that here. I’ll leave you with a list of things that we can all do towards promoting gender equality. Note that none of these require any money, as I want to be sure we all have access to being agents of change:
- Remember that trans women are women, too. Excluding anyone from discussions (and actions!) about gender equality is counter to the very idea of equality, and definitely not what either RBG or Jesus would do.
- Men – share more in household chores! I challenge you to do one more thing than you usually do. And to anyone partnered to a man, ask them to do something! Oftentimes they are willing, but they just don’t even know what they don’t know.
- Think like a mom. The next time you go out to do errands or go to work, I challenge everyone to think about what it would be like to have small children in tow. Is there reserved parking for new and expectant mothers? Are there changing stations in the bathrooms? Are the sidewalks in good repair? This last one makes a huge difference not only to mothers with strollers but also to anyone with mobility challenges. Just another example of how inclusivity works to the benefit of all.
- Vote for (and hire, and promote) women. Women do not have a proportionate share of power. If we truly want to support the equality of women, we need them in positions of authority where their experience and expertise will help shape policies for future generations. The same goes for just about every minority group.
Fight the good fight, my friends, and let’s be agents of change in God’s name. Now, more than ever, it is important to act upon what we believe in. May God bless and inspire you this week, and I look forward to hearing what you act upon in your lives.
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