Ever heard the saying “If I wanted your opinion, I’d give it to you!” I used to be that person; I would give you my and your opinion too. Any day, all day, err day of the week, if I didn’t think something was right or someone was treated fairly, I would call out the perpetrator.
You a racist employer? You’d hear from me. You sexually harass women, I’d shame you in public. You a big shot getting airtime on other people’s humanity and dignity, I’ll call you out before the world. You speak behind my back, I’d confront you directly.
I didn’t even stop to think about it. I saw the injustice, felt it and stepped out to redress it. It was my duty to right the world’s wrongs. What a short-sighted, opinionated, pain in the behind I’ve been.
Sure, I set the record straight and some did feel they had someone who took their issues seriously and could speak truth to power, but past the immediate reaction, my “heroic” interventions didn’t get much traction and the issues I wanted to straighten out, largely remained the same.
I have since learned:
When You Want to Change Things – Be Strategic About It
What does that mean? Let me explain using these 7 strategies as examples:
Know the Law
When Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel and his captors wanted to try him as a Jew he revealed to them that he was actually a Roman citizen and therefore, out of their legal jurisdiction. They therefore had to hand him over to the Roman Empire. Paul knew the law in general and, he specifically knew the law that dealt with his particular issue.
When you want to change things for the better, it is best to first know the laws, rules, procedures that govern the issue. This is so that when you do address it, you go directly and specifically to the statutes, judgements and rules that give you legal right to bring a case. That way, you follow the formalities required to address it and those that are opposed to your seeking redress, are less likely to arbitrarily undermine your efforts. (Acts 25)
Address the Real Issue
When Moses got angered by the incident of the Egyptian man harassing the Hebrew man, and took matters into his own hands, by killing the Egyptian man, he was using undue force (not to mention criminal methods) to address an isolated symptom, rather than get to the root of the matter. The real issue wasn’t the sporadic, individual acts of hate and violence perpetrated by the Egyptians against the Hebrews, rather it was a deliberate government policy that was institutionalised as a systemic action to annihilate the Hebrew, through genocide. For Moses to be effective at redressing what he saw on the streets, he was later sent to address the ruler of the land, Pharaoh. Pharaoh, being King, was the law. When he decreed a thing, it had to pass and could not be revoked. (Job 22:28)
So, Moses finally addressed, what we would today call the “policymakers and legislatures” and after much back and forth, the law was changed, which stopped not only the genocide of the Hebrews but led to the freedom of what would become the nation of Israel. (Exodus 2-12)
Speak to the Right Audience
Joseph’s vision and dreams fell to deaf ears, so to speak, when he shared them with his brothers and parents. He could see what the future held and thought when he painted a picture of what was to come through him, everyone else would be just as thrilled as he was. He though that he would be celebrated as the savior he was destined to be for his family. Instead, his dreams and visions enraged his audience, so much so that his brothers, jealous and tired of his dreams, plotted to kill him. As you know, they sold him to slavery in Egypt instead.
In Egypt, Joseph interpreted other people’s dreams in the hope that they would see his value and recommend him to those in power but it didn’t happen. Joseph stayed in captivity and obscurity until one day, the ruler of the land had a dream that no one was qualified to address but Joseph. Joseph was remembered and brought before Pharaoh where he humbly gave both the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams as well as the solution for the economy.
Finally, Joseph’s “skill” as dreamer of things to come and interpreter of dreams, fell to the right ears. Pharaoh was extremely pleased with Joseph and saw him for what he was – a savior, but not of the Hebrews but, of the Egyptians. Pharaoh gave Joseph the second most powerful position, so that Joseph could be in a decision-making position that would influence the positive change, Joseph wanted to bring, since childhood. (Genesis 37, 40,41)
Reach the Relevant Authority
When David wanted to fight Goliath, everyone around him laughed. David was a shepherd boy, not a soldier. He was young, unskilled, and really not much to look at. Even his brother told him to go away and stop disturbing men in battle. It was not until David sought audience with King Saul, who represented the highest authority in the land, that he was granted audience and the authority to take on the challenge that was before him and the nation of Israel. Something David did, to tremendous success, effecting the positive change the nation needed, once and for all. (1 Samuel 17)
Secure Critical Buy-in
Disturbed by the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem, Nehemiah, who was, in captivity, asked his leader, a foreign King, to grant him leave to return home to rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem. He also asked for material resources as well as a letter than granted him passage and favour with other kings as he travelled back home.
When back in Jerusalem, Nehemiah secured critical buy-in from other people, who agreed to join hands with him to rebuild the wall. Some brought resources, others volunteered to do the building, others still, stood guard. A decision made by one person, ended up being a movement that secured buy-in from a critical mass of supporters, to be able to effect positive and far reaching change. (Nehemiah 2-4)
Obtain Remedial Action
When Haman a wicked advisor to King Ahasuerus devised a plan to kill Mordecai, a just man that served in the palace, and along with Mordecai, the entire Jewish people, Mordecai enlisted the help of Queen Esther. Queen Esther, unbeknownst to Haman and the King, was a Jew. This meant that by asking the King to order the genocide of the Jews, he was in effect, advising the King to order the death of his own Queen.
So, when Mordecai asked Queen Esther to bring the matter to the King, he advised her to seek justice not just for himself and Queen Esther, but, Mordecai, being strategic, asked the Queen to use her position to seek remedial action for the entire Jewish people around the world. As a person who would be affected by the decree and the fact that she was queen, Queen Esther was able to seek and secure positive change and make global impact. The decree was reversed, lives were saved, Mordecai was promoted and Haman, the cause of all the trouble, was hanged. (Esther 4)
Change the System
Daniel was a celebrated civil servant but his integrity and excellence was the very cause for jealously and plots to kill him. When the other senior officials created a law that would interpret Daniel’s uncompromising worship to his God as treason, and Daniel was therefore sentenced to death by lion mauling, God rescued Daniel, in one of the most dramatic rescues in biblical history.
The lions’ mouths were shut up and they didn’t kill Daniel when he was thrown into the Lion’s Den. And the King, who finally woke up to the fact that he was used by the other senior officials, wrote a decree that everyone, everywhere, in his entire Kingdom (which spanned a large part of the known world) should bow down and worship Daniel’s God.
Not only did Daniel secure change but Daniel’s service, faithfulness and favour, led to the complete overhauling of an old repressive law and system, and ushered in a new and progressive law and system. All glory to God! (Daniel 6)
Being patient is the last thing you want to be when you hear and witness so much pain and injustice. You want to do something now and you want to do everything you can to redress the wrongs you see. And there is a place for that.
There is a place for jumping in front of someone to shield them from bullets or another weapon of assault. There is a place for standing up in a crowd to confront and speak truth to power. There is a place for marching in solidarity and signing petitions that stop inaction or stir up action. And I respect, revere and owe much of where I am in life today in 2018, to the known and unknown, sung and unsung sacrifices of so many men and women who have gone before us in history and recent times.
What I am saying here is there is also a place for choosing to step back and ask, ‘what is another, perhaps farther reaching and longer lasting strategy to redressing this evil; and what planning and preparation do I need to do so that when I and others with me, get the one chance to address the wrong, we will be confident that we will have impact and obtain a permanent solution?’. As Moses said to the Israelites “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, the Egyptian you see today, you will see no more.” In Jesus’ Name! (Exodus 14:13)
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