Stand!

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.  Daniel 3: 16 – 18

When I was growing up one of my favorite bands was Sly & The Family Stone.  The group was known for their innovative sound, rhythmic beat, and cutting edge lyrics that often dealt with the social issues of that era.  Though it wasn’t one of their big hits, my all-time favorite Sly & The Family Stone song was STAND!

Though the music was great and the beat was catchy, the most significant thing about STAND! was its message.  STAND! encouraged us all to take a strong position for the causes that we strongly believed in.

The other day I was browsing through songs on my cell phone’s iTunes listing, looking for something inspiring to play.  That’s when I saw it – “STAND!”

The first thing that I noticed was that STAND! was the only among my 1,299 songs whose title was written in all capital, bolded letters, and contained an exclamation mark at the end for emphasis.  I concluded that the bold, dynamic print was used because no one can STAND! quietly and obscurely.

I decided to play it.  Much to my surprise I was immediately inspired once again by the message, as the lyrics started to play….

“STAND!  For the things you know are right
It’s the truth, that the truth makes them so uptight”

The song immediately reminded me of an issue that has been flooding the news lately – the story of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  For those who may not know the details, let me give you a brief overview of the story:

Kimberly Jean Bailey Davis is a Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who defied a U.S. Federal Court order requiring that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.  After she lost her appeal Davis continued to deny the licenses, saying she was acting “under God’s authority”. On September 3, 2015, she was jailed for contempt of court.

As one would imagine, Ms. Davis has taken a beating from much of the general public, and especially those affiliated with the LGBT community, for her stance and her actions.

“I kind of laugh at it because I knew that she wasn’t gonna get anywhere, and that eventually she was going to lose her job, or have to quit, and it happened so, we won again,” said a local man, who plans to marry his male partner within the next few months.

However, does Kim Davis’ ultimate incarceration mean that she has lost?  God’s word in 1 Corinthians 16: 13 says Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”  But what happens when we stand firm in the faith?  I believe 2 Timothy 3:12 holds the answer: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

“STAND! You’ve been sitting much too long
There’s a permanent crease in your right and wrong”

Last Saturday I conducted my weekly devotional – titled “You Can Always Just Walk” – for the 40+ age group of guys that I play basketball with every Saturday morning.  The devotional was geared around the Kim Davis issue.  I divided the group into 3 groups, and provided each group with a brief overview of the situation.

On the back of the 1-page overview each group was encouraged to either state their support of the actions of Kim Davis, or provide alternative suggestions on how she could have gotten her point across.

As I walked around the gym and listened I heard some very interesting dialog taking place within each group.  Finally we reconvened to discuss the matter within the larger group.  I asked each group to provide their consensus.

Group 1 felt that Ms. Davis should sign the marriage licenses (“after all, she is obligated by law to do so”), or resign from her position.

Group 2 felt that Ms. Davis should assign the responsibility to one of her deputies, since she is unwilling to sign herself.

Group 3 felt that Ms. Davis should have made a public statement about her beliefs against gay marriages, then proceed to sign their marriage licenses.  After hearing from each of the 3 groups I then offered my input.

First of all, I referenced my rather unusual title – “You Can Always Just Walk”.  I then reflected on an historic event that took place in Montgomery, AL on December 1, 1955.

Rosa Parks, a black woman, was jailed for refusing to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger, in accordance to law.  Parks’ act of defiance and the resulting Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement.   Parks acted as a private citizen “tired of giving in”.  Although widely honored in later years, Ms. Parks also suffered for her act; she was fired from her job as a seamstress in a local department store, and received death threats for years afterwards.

“STAND! There’s a cross for you to bear
Things to go through if you’re going anywhere”

So why would Rosa Parks put herself directly in harm’s way, and willingly endure so much ridicule, all for the sake of her beliefs?  Weren’t there other options?

According to the sentiment of group 1 from my Saturday morning fellow over-the-hill basketball warriors, Parks should have obediently taken her seat on the back of bus.  After all, she was obligated by law to do so. 

According to the sentiments of group 2, Parks should have punted the responsibility to someone else.

And if it were up to group 3, Parks would have stood outside the bus, publicly protesting the injustice of having to sit in back…..then proceeded to board and subserviently take her seat….in the back.

Here’s the real question: If Parks hadn’t taken such a strong stand to support her beliefs, and to shine the bright light of injustice on her cause, what would have happened?  The obvious answer is absolutely nothing!  Throughout the south there would have been additional weeks, months, perhaps even years of black people enduring the injustice of being forced to ride in the back of buses – simply because of the color of their skin.

The bottom line is this: On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks could have adhered to the laws in her day that called for racial profiling regarding seating assignments on public transportation – just as Kimberly Davis today could accept the current laws handed down by the recent Supreme Court ruling.  Or Davis could resign, and Parks could have just walked to her destination.  But the fact is, no social or spiritual injustice is ever addressed until someone is bold enough to STAND! in opposition, mandating that we take notice.

“STAND! In the end you’ll still be you
One that’s done all the things you set out to do”

This article wasn’t written to take a strong position concerning the appropriateness of Kim Davis’ action (though hopefully you can clearly see where I STAND! on this).  This article was written to support the right – no, the obligation – of all Christians to STAND! for what we believe in, without regard to the consequences associated with doing so.

In the beginning scripture reference of this article, 3 young Hebrew men were told by their king that they must worship an idol of gold, or be put to death in a fiery furnace.  After all, they were obligated by law to do so.  The young men refused to bow to the king’s god of gold.  These 3 young men respected the authority of king Nebuchadnezzar, but they ultimately answered to a King of higher authority – God.

Kim Davis obviously feels the same way.  And for that stance alone, I fully support her.  As a believer, I submit that you should too.

When recently asked what he thought the future holds for Kim Davis, Kim’s husband Joe wasn’t sure.  But he responded, “She won’t bow, I promise you.”

What about you?  When faced with the prospects of being denied your rights to express and exercise your beliefs, while also protecting your right to not support or celebrate beliefs that run contrary to yours, what will you do?  Will you STAND! or will you bow?  Will you demand your rightful spot on the front of the bus that defies spiritual and social injustice, or will you submissively make your way to the back?

Or, of course, if you prefer not to take a stand at all, I guess you can always just walk.

“Everybody
stand, STAND,
STAND!!” (CD available here.)