All of us like being part of groups. Whether it’s family, a team, a club, or a church, all of us derive comfort from having a community around us. When those groups are healthy, they can do amazing things. When those groups are unhealthy, we can find ourselves trapped between our loyalty to our community and doing the right thing.
There will always be a cost for doing the right thing. Hopefully, the community will stand with us when we do that. But sometimes it won’t. And sometimes the community will choose to continue in unhealthy patterns.
Institutions of politics, religion, entertainment, and media, have historically been places where sexual harassment and assault are swept under the rug in order to protect the powerful and the institution. Those who’ve been willing to step forward and name the evil present have been ostracized, threatened, and punished. This remains true in a great many institutions and places.
The church is not innocent in this and we know that. But this is why Christians need to be so clear that our sense of belonging is first in the Kingdom of God and second everywhere else. Sometimes the Kingdom can be found in the church and sometimes it cannot.
When we find ourselves facing the risk and the danger of challenging the groups and institutions of which we’re a part we need to know that our sense of who we are is not built on our membership there. We need to know that who we are is built on being made by God and loved by God and that God stands with us when we stand on peace, and compassion, and justice. And that whatever force emerges to try to protect the status quo will not have the final say.
There’s another important piece of this however. Most of the time we find that we are bystanders in situations. As bystanders in any group or institution we can choose whether we will be part of the Kingdom of God, or not. As bystanders in the church, we decide whether we will live as if it is the Kingdom and do so fearlessly, or whether we’ll stay quiet.
The Kingdom belongs to God and it is God who is making it. But it is ours to choose and ours to live in right now. One of the ways we can make it visible in the church and in the world is to refuse to be quiet bystanders. We can choose to make our institutions and communities places where people don’t have to choose between their loyalty to the group and their loyalty to what is right.