The chaos of what happened last week in America’s Capitol is foremost on our minds today. How could this hallowed institution be breached by violent insurrectionists? How could a mob of thugs get inside the very tangible and visible symbol of our country’s democracy? Where did it all go wrong?
I don’t think it started to go wrong last Wednesday. I don’t think it started in November. I don’t even think it started to fall apart four years ago. Our deep and polarizing issues have been dividing us since the inception of our country, and our continued failure to address the issues that divide us brought us straight up the capitol steps last week in the form of blood and insurrection. Until we confront our national racism, the abuse of power, the advantage of privilege, the entitlement of the wealthy, widespread inequity, oppression, and injustice, we will continue to experience hurtful and damaging division.
Where we go wrong is when we fail to speak truth to power.
In this passage from 1 Samuel 3, we see a similar conundrum. Samuel is a young man serving in the household of Eli, who was the judge and high priest. God’s word was not heard much in those days, but the presence of God was still in the temple, where Samuel served. Eli’s sons had committed many sins against God, using their privilege and entitlement as “sons of the high priest” as their cover. Eli had been warned that his household was about to fall apart due to their rebellion. Finally God spoke directly to young Samuel:
1 Samuel 3 (Common English Bible)
11 The Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle! 12 On that day, I will bring to pass against Eli everything I said about his household—every last bit of it! 13 I told him that I would punish his family forever because of the wrongdoing he knew about—how his sons were cursing God, but he wouldn’t stop them. 14 Because of that I swore about Eli’s household that his family’s wrongdoing will never be reconciled by sacrifice or by offering.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning, then opened the doors of the Lord’s house. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel, saying: “Samuel, my son!”
“I’m here,” Samuel said.
17 “What did he say to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide anything from me. May God deal harshly with you and worse still if you hide from me a single word from everything he said to you.”18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.
“He is the Lord, ” Eli said. “He will do as he pleases.”
19 So Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not allowing any of his words to fail. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was trustworthy as the Lord’s prophet.
When we find ourselves in a situation where God is calling us to speak truth to power, we must remember Samuel. His obedience to say the harsh word to someone who had authority over him was blessed by God. For the rest of his days, the Lord was with him and did not allow any of his words to fail.
Where is God calling you to speak out? Is there a situation in your family that needs resolution? Are you suffering in your workplace because of unfair policies or discrimination? Is your marriage or relationship off-kilter because your partner is too controlling and causing you harm? Is it time to email your Congressional leadership and demand change?
Samuel teaches us that being trustworthy to the Lord’s message is more important than anything else. When you speak for God, he will be with you, always.
It’s time to speak up.