Serious Question: Are you Quick or Slow to Speak?

Quick or Slow to Speak Sara B. Thomas

Social Media Rant or Slow Responses?

Late one night this weekend I noticed a post on social media that simply read, “What happened in Charlottesville should be easy to talk about. If you find yourself struggling to address it publically or with friends or family, take a step back and ask yourself why.” These words were not intended to get under my skin. I truly believe the post was intended to help people reflect on the hateful events of the day in Charlottesville, Virginia. The question, “Are you quick or slow to speak?” seemed to echo in my soul.

The Coach in me, specifically the StrengthsFinder coach in me, wanted to ask him a question: “Are Communication or Activator in your top 5?” These talents have a way with words and are quick to move to action.

I did not ask the question. I knew it was a diversion on my part.

But, it was also a moment of learning.

Because I was struggling with words.

I could mumble my shock. I tried to utter my dismay at the hate displayed under the guise of free speech. But, my words seemed inarticulate and unhelpful. I could even share other people’s words. But, my own words seemed to be failing me.

Until I realized my coaching question was not a diversion. It was a reminder that how we respond will differ based on who God created us to be. The social media post cut to the core of one person’s expectation.

I am reminded there is not one way to grieve, advocate, and/or respond to hateful violence or evil. Some will respond with spoken words. Others will share written words and still others will use their gift of music, art, and photography to respond.

Even so, I wonder what we will learn and how will we lead people to a different reality?

Three Transitions

David Olson’s book, The American Church in Crisis (2008), offers a reminder about three transitions underway.

  1. The transition from Christian to post-Christian society.
  2. The shift from modern to post-modern society.
  3. The transition from mono-ethnic to a multi-ethnic society.

quick or slow to speak sara b. thomasYes, almost a decade ago he published these transitions. I cannot help but think all three are coming to a head. The first two have been in our peripheral vision for longer than a decade. I’m afraid, however, the transition from mono-ethnic to multi-ethnic society has not given us reason to pause. There are people of all ages who not only understand a multi-ethnic society but are thriving in the midst of it. They are likely also the people who do not fear the place of the church in a post-Christian society. And, likely, they are not retreating because of the shifts toward postmodern thinking.

While there may be better ways to express the transitions, Olson’s words are reminding me that in the midst of transition, there is tension. Transformational leaders guide people through the tension to make decisions. I wonder if our decisions will embody, reflect, and lead people to a new reality or simply heap words on hurting souls? Will we show people a different way?

We need to show people a different way.

Where Do We Start?

On Sunday, my schedule meant that I had the opportunity to listen to several different pastors share their sermons. I wondered on Saturday evening if I had been preaching what I would say? The exercise is all but lost when the intensity of the moment is not real. One thing I do know is that whatever the scripture may have been if my message was reflective of the gospel, there would be a place to name the hurt, hate, and violence and point to a way of love.

Each pastor I heard found a way to address evil and hate in our world. One was very personal. One was very pastoral. The third one was passionate. All began with faith in Jesus.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Christain leaders, can we start with Jesus? Can we be reminded that we don’t look to the ways of the world to find a new way in Christ? We look to Jesus to remember he is the way of love. The love of God I know in Jesus does not incite hate. Period.

Then, can we agree on a couple things? My fear says, no. My faith says we must.

I hope we can agree that a car driven intentionally into a crowd of people killing one person and injuring 34 people is hateful. Maybe we can even agree that a car driven into a crowd by someone who has different ideologies than a group of peaceful protestors is evil. I don’t use the words evil and hate often. But there are no other words I know to describe human behavior that causes the intentional death of another human.quick or slow to speak sara b. thomas

Quick or Slow to Speak?

As I went to bed Sunday night, I listened to an African American pastor lament with the words, “I thought we were beyond this (KKK incited violence).”

I confess. So did I.

But I also confess that we are far from beyond it and a false sense of security, peace, and unity undergirds most of my life. Our ability as humans to live peaceably in a multi-ethnic, post-Christian, postmodern world is fragile, at best.  And it grieves me.

  • It grieves me because I’ve had the privilege to experience the multi-ethnic church community and its messy, beautiful, life-giving opportunities.
  • I grieve because I know I’ve taken for granted what the color of my skin offers me without question.
  • It grieves me because I want to believe freedom of speech and assembly can happen without violence and death.
  • I grieve because any discrimination I have faced as a female, as hateful and as horrible as it was, doesn’t even begin to reflect the events we see.
  • It grieves me because “leaders” with reactionary statements that perpetuate division and spark tension seem to be normal.
  • But mostly I grieve because I know there is someone today facing hatred and/or violence.

quick or slow to speak sara b. thomas

How, then, will we respond?

In the midst of the transitions, shifts, and tension the only thing I know to do is stand firmly, faithfully, lovingly, close to Jesus. As I draw nearer to Jesus, who knows all my grief and stood in my place, I can see again the true embodiment of love. Then I choose, in the midst of the tension, transition, and turbulence to be firmly grounded in the love of God I know in Jesus. Friends, remember, evil and hate dissipate in the face of words and acts of love.

So, yes, some of us may take a little longer to speak. When we do, I hope you’ll remember why you spoke, too.

Sara Thomas Courageous Goals



Read More:

Charlottesville a post from Transforming Mission