taking the words of Jesus seriously

A teacher once gave a balloon to all of his students, told them to blow it up and write their names on it. Then, he had them throw the balloons in the hallway. The teacher mixed up all the balloons, then gave the students 5 minutes to find their own balloons. 

Everyone searched frantically, but nobody found their balloon. 

The teacher told all the students to pick up a balloon and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes, everyone had their own balloon. 

After they all settled down, the teacher said, “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is just looking for their own. But if we care about other people’s happiness, we’ll find ours too.”

Too much of Christian history has been us as individuals focusing on ourselves. 

Our own “Personal Salvation.” 

God is always trying to move us beyond that. 

To pay attention to the whole. 

To pay attention to the collective. 

In Exodus 3:7, God says to Moses

“I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them.”

God shows up because God has “heard their cry of injustice.”

The Myth

There is a myth out there that people who are strong don’t complain. 

They don’t complain about the things that are wrong. 

They just grin and bear it.

Now, nobody wants to be around someone who is just complaining all the time and never does anything to try and change things. 

But being silent about issues, injustices, and things that are wrong also doesn’t change them. 

Sometimes people have a rule – “Don’t bring me a complaint unless you also bring me a solution.”

That may be the right move in some situations. 

But most of the time, the solution only comes because of the cries of injustice. 

And we’re in a culture that doesn’t want to hear it. 

It’s embedded in all kinds of little comments we make. Like the comment, “You can’t complain if you didn’t vote.” 

The sentiment behind that comment is that if you want to make change, voting is a good way to do it. 

Except, that phrase is typically geared toward one group of people…people who are left out and ignored. Usually, people who are poor, low-income, and minority groups. 

Even though people are trying to inspire other to vote with comments like that, what they actually do is silence people. 

I know countless people who do not vote because they aren’t feeling heard and nobody cares about them. 

They complain hoping somebody will listen to the injustice and harm they are experiencing. 

Actually, I lied. I don’t know “countless people.” We know the number of people who don’t vote. 

“Forty-seven percent of the voters are poor or low-wage workers.” (1) They have the lowest turnout of all groups of voters because nobody is talking about the issues and struggles they are dealing with. (The turnout among low-wage and low-income voters today is 20-22% below the average turnout).

Nobody is listening to them. Instead, in subtle, and sometimes unintentional ways, (but also in very intentional ways) they are silenced and told to not complain. 

But the very reason God shows up to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is because people who are suffering, oppressed, and in unjust situations cry out about it. 

Things change because we cry out. 

This is even true in our immediate relationships. Two people tend to have a lot more conflict when they don’t share their complaints or the ways they feel slighted or wronged. How would someone ever fix that? How would change ever come about if those things aren’t voiced? How will people ever see what’s going on?

Those things matter. 

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, documentary filmmaker and a central figure in the 1920 & 30s Harlem Renaissance (this was an explosion of African-American art, literature, music, and nightlife in NYC that was sparked when many Black people from the south fled up north).

She focused on the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. 

She said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Staying silent is a myth. 

God “comes down” when people cry out.

But God doesn’t show up and start hurling lightning bolts down from heaven or show up and automatically set things right.  

God comes down and gets involved by sending Moses. 

A person.

When God wants to get involved, God sends people. 

And if people are going to be sent, then people have to know that something is happening. 

We need the protests. We need the cries of injustice. We need the videos and tweets, sermons and newspaper articles. 

God is going to send people, but only if we continue to cry out about the injustice, oppression, and harm being done. 

Crying Out

My own tradition, United Methodism, calls this “Social Holiness.” We take a stand on issues of injustice and oppression, and invite people to work to better these situations. 

We literally write down and call out injustice like lack of clean water, gun violence, hunger, poverty, the death penalty, the importance of a living wage, responsible lending practices by institutions, national budgets, education reform, and the disarming nuclear weapons.

We even call out the injustice of Israel and Palestine. 

We don’t always know the answers for how to fix things…but we know that if we don’t speak about it – nothing will change.

The students protesting on college campuses are crying out about the injustice, knowing that this is how things will change. 

If we don’t say something, how will people know God is calling them?

If we don’t say something, how will people know God is sending them?

Archbishop Desmund Tutu was a Christian leader in South Africa during the time of Apartheid – when Black people were oppressed in South Africa. He helped lead the work for justice.

I love this statement that’s attributed to him: “Every church should be able to get a letter of recommendation from the poor in their community.”

Are we paying attention to the cries? Are we crying out ourselves? 

It’s easy to ignore this stuff. But we are all connected. All of these issues matter and impact all of us. 

We rise and we fall together. 

God’s Representative

Sometimes I find that being God’s representative is difficult, not because I don’t care…but because I don’t know what to do.

It all seems too complicated and more than I can handle, take on, or have the understanding for…

But a lot of times that’s because I’m trying to take on a role that isn’t mine. 

College students across the country have been protesting on their campus to call on the U.S. and their schools to stop funding Israel’s war on the Palestinian people. Thousands of innocent children, women, and civilians have been killed and are being killed. 

The students are paying attention to what they can do. They’re crying out about it and crying for change to happen, for this slaughter to stop. 

They have heard the cries and they know this is a way they can respond. 

It may not be the whole answer. 

But they know they are called to this role at this time. 


We can’t stay silent. 

This is the way God “comes down.” 

This is how the Kingdom of God shows up. 

It’s not a “Personal Salvation Project.”

It is about all of us being saved together. 

So may we cry out and trust God will “come down” to save us all.  

(1) https://www.commondreams.org/news/poor-people-s-campaign

About The Author


Joel Simpson is the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Taylorsville, NC. He blogs regularly at https://substack.com/@joelsimpson. https://www.facebook.com/joel.simpson.98

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