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  • Larry Payne

Speak Up!

Do you find it hard to “speak up?” I’ve always been more of an observer than an actor, more to a leave-it-alone rather than a grab-the-horns. But there are times when silence is not golden, just a matte black that doesn’t meet the challenge when something is wrong. It’s important to gain a voice.

Today’s newsfeed reveals the desire of powerful groups to silence opposing ideas. Authoritarian dictators arrest opponents. Protestors launch Bible verses like grenades across picket lines. Trolls attack good people on social media with hateful threats. When persons of faith challenge the Powers, sparks of conflict bring tumult—or transformation—to the world.

Scriptures provide examples of this difficult engagement from ages past. The prophet Elisha challenged Naaman, the desperate commander of a great pagan army, to surrender his prejudice against the God of a minor nation, who alone could bring healing. Paul brought a prophetic challenge to the Roman governor Agrippa, calling him to consider his personal response to Jesus, the Lord of a new kingdom far greater than Rome. In each story we find the person of power confronted by a greater Power, embodied in a commoner who is daring to express the truth.

Where do we find courage to speak? It grows from self-esteem. Those who understand their innate worth and dignity can turn that assurance into great courage. Most of the time we feel our worth is connected to what we succeed in doing. Our society rewards those who do things with paychecks, accolades, and magazine covers. Certainly, striving for a productive life is healthy. But worth is far deeper than what is on a resume. Dr. Brenae Brown writes, “Worthiness doesn’t have any prerequisites… Here’s what is truly at the heart of Wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” For persons of faith, this worth is rooted in the inclusion of every person in God’s loving family.

Could there be some Power that needs to hear your voice? A place where your values are being ignored, or other worthy people being demeaned? If it feels wrong, it probably is! A Power is seeking to further an agenda that hurts people, divides communities, or blocks well-being. Your voice can make a difference because you are worthy in God’s world.

It's important for us to lift up the voices who have spoken up. Across the centuries common folks have acted with courage to unwilling Powers. A determined priest, Francis of Assisi, spoke truth about life with God to a medieval church enamored with wealth. A Baptist preacher of the 16th century, Thomas Helwys, delivered a call for religious liberty to the King who claimed power over the conscience of every subject. Kindergartener Ruby Bridges walked with courage to school each day in 1959, inflicting the bigots of New Orleans with a witness of equality.

We may feel inadequate. That’s okay. But let’s not be silent. Common folks of faith activate the energy of the Divine when we live out justice, love, and healing to the Powers.


Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. Hazeldon Publishing, 2010.

(Photo by Wonderland on


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