The world needs gadflies. No, not those annoying horsefly types; the world needs the gadflies on society that continually provoke and annoy the authorities so that they consider other points of view. Socrates was known as the gadfly of Athens. He was eventually executed. America has had her gadflies, too. Many of these gadflies have worked to address issues of inequality, especially in regards to racism. One of those gadflies was Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois. As America wrestled with reforming society after the Civil War, a compromise was proposed that would have accepted segregation and other terrible aspects of segregation but provide for some basic education, economic opportunities, and justice for African-Americans. Even though this was accepted by some famous African Americans, Dr. Du Bois recognized that this still was not true freedom and equality. He fought for full equality for African-Americans whether it be in education or in voting rights. Dr. Du Bois was a gadfly who pricked the social conscience of post-Civil War America and forced people to realize that all people were equal.
Gadflies have been known to infuriate the powers that be. Moses was a gadfly who would not relent or compromise on the ideal that the Israel should be freed from the Egyptian slavery. He had some strong backing as that was God’s view – in fact, he had been sent from God. As Pharaoh fought against this freedom, God sent ten plagues to emphasize His superiority over the gods of the Egyptians. After the ninth plague, Pharaoh lost it. He had enough. “Pharaoh said to Moses, ‘Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.’ ‘Just as you say,’ Moses replied. ‘I will never appear before you again.’” (Exodus 10:28-29)
Pharaoh had endured nine plagues from God. He was tired, worn, and frazzled. When first confronted with the call to free the Israelites, he cracked down, thinking that perhaps that would end this “freedom” nonsense. As the plagues continued, he sought compromises in allowing the Israelites the opportunity to worship. Moses stuck to his guns. Freedom would be all or nothing. Every time that Pharaoh sought compromise, the plagues got worse. Finally, Pharaoh made it clear. “If you keep this up, you will die. Don’t ever let me see your face again.” Little did Pharaoh know that people would die, but that because of his stubbornness, it would be the firstborn of all the Egyptians.
As Christians, we are called to stand for justice for all. We are not called to accept the idea that anyone is a “second-class” citizen. We are to be gadflies to a society that would use people to gain things. We are to be gadflies to a society that would see some people as disposable. We are to be gadflies to a society that would make power more important than truth. One of the problems we have as Christians today is that we have become too comfortable in our relationships with the powers that be. We are willing to align ourselves to one political side or the other. When we become that comfortable, it’s hard to speak the truth when “our side” is in power. If Jesus is our example, we need to learn to step away from the power that we enjoy when “our side” is in control. We need to admonish the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Romans equally. You can decide for yourself which modern group replaces the ancient ones because it really doesn’t matter. We must speak up for justice and equality for all people. We must be gadflies in a society that overlooks so many people.
Oh Lord, there is no power greater than You. How easily I align myself with one group or another and seek to support that power. Remind me that I am called to speak out against inequality and injustice no matter what group has political power. Let me be a gadfly to those who would oppress others.