Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show and her “Formation” music video have created controversy for the last several weeks. Most of the backlash has come from her allusion to the Black Panther movement and the portrayal of police officers in the music video. As a result, police departments in several cities where she is scheduled to perform over the coming months have encouraged their officers not to provide security at the concerts. As most on-site security in such venues is filled by off-duty cops looking to make a bit of extra money, these officers don’t have an obligation to work at the shows, and a boycott could create problems for Queen Bey’s tour.
As one might expect, the issue has generated strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, was the latest to offer his take when he told a group this past Sunday: “She [Beyoncé] started talking that black stuff . . . and white folks (said), ‘We don’t know how to deal with that.’ . . . You gonna picket. You not going to offer her police protection? But the FOI (Fruit of Islam, the Nation of Islam’s security branch) will.”
The Nation of Islam was founded in 1930 in the hopes of improving the lives of Muslims in America. Under Farrakhan, its emphases have often been more social and political than spiritual, though he might dispute that characterization, and the focus has expanded to include African American issues beyond those related only to Muslims. Farrakhan’s statements Sunday were in keeping with that focus and aimed at encouraging other African American artists to follow the lead of Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, whose Grammy performance was also about black pride, in embracing their culture and identity. He concluded by assuring those who took his challenge, “We’ll back you up.”
The merit of Farrakhan’s approach is debatable and his racially charged speech seems more likely to further exacerbate our nation’s current racial divide rather than bring people together. However, his last words, “We’ll back you up,” are what I want to discuss today. You see, it’s far easier to ask others to take the risk of potentially placing themselves in harm’s way than it is to join them in that endeavor. If our courage is limited to words and we lack the commitment to follow through with action, then those words, no matter how sincere or commendable they may appear, don’t really mean much.
As James asks his readers, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15–16). Jesus illustrated the same principle in his parable of the sheep and the goats where, in the final judgment, the authenticity of a person’s faith will be revealed by their commitment to serving Jesus through helping others (Matthew 25:31–46). Essentially, these passages demonstrate that God expects more from us than good intentions. If our faith is genuine, then it should be evident in the way we live and in our commitment to serving our Lord with what we do as well as what we say.
So what does your life say about the quality of your faith today? Is that faith primarily limited to good, and even godly, words, or do your actions speak to a greater level of commitment to the kingdom?
A time will come when God will ask more of you than words alone can accomplish. If you decide today that you will remain faithful when that time comes, making the correct decision will be far easier. But while the Lord will always be with you, equipping you with whatever is necessary to accomplish his will, the choice to act will always be yours to make. Choose wisely.