A Commitment to Truth Means Defending the Oppressed
The story of a man who stood up to intervene for the defenseless.
A bully is mean to others for no good reason. Usually the bully is bigger and stronger, or at least likes to think that he is. He acts powerful by saying mean things, pushing and shoving, or even hitting. Typically we think of bullying as something that happens in schools between children, but adults can be bullies too. The hunger for power, seen often in adults through manipulative behavior, is motivated by selfishness. The results are always hurtful.
It was a sad day in 1830 when the United States Congress passed a law forcing the Cherokee Indians and other tribes to move away from the land where they had lived for hundreds of years. The path of their exodus became known as The Trail of Tears.
The Cherokee, and many other tribes—the Creek, the Seminole, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw—lived in the southeastern portion of the United States. Many of them were farmers and cattle ranchers. They built towns, schools, and churches and published a newspaper. Many of them were Christians. In the early 1800s these Indian communities were not bands of criminals who raided homes and killed innocent people; rather, they were very much like their new white neighbors who were moving south by the thousands to establish their own farms and ranches.
But there were powerful men who wanted the Cherokee land. Some held positions as governors, congressmen, or mayors. They were not content with what God had given them and chose to ignore the Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17) and the Golden Rule: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). These leaders manipulated laws in order to force the Indians to give them what they wanted. They were bullies.
Jeremiah Evarts, on the other hand, was the champion of the Cherokee. A godly man, Jeremiah, was troubled that these people, made in God’s image just as he was, were being forced to abandon their ancestral homes. The truth of the Bible was his guide, and the Bible spoke clearly about living in harmony with one another. So how could he be silent when the Cherokee were being threatened?
God has children all over the world, and He has a plan for each one. The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Jeremiah Evarts was created with the gifts and talents to fight for the Cherokee. He was trained as a lawyer, so he understood how to debate using facts and logic. He was a Christian, so he knew God’s truth. And God orchestrated his birth at the right time and in the right place for this work to be accomplished.
Those who live by the truth of the Bible, who do as Jesus would do, will not bully others. They will follow what God has given them to do and find contentment in doing God’s will. They will seek to live in peace with their neighbors, classmates, and family members. That is what Jesus taught.
Sadly, Jeremiah Evarts’ fight to protect the Cherokee failed. The Indian Removal Act, which passed in Congress by only one vote, was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, giving him the power to negotiate the Cherokee exodus. The Trail of Tears began in 1838, as the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama gathered militia to force the Indians to move.
Without compassion, without any love for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40 NKJV), soldiers burned homes and destroyed and looted property. The Cherokee people were then forced to begin walking west. And it was winter. Thousands died from the cold and starvation. Some were murdered.
Though this story does not have a happy ending, faith in God calls us to hope again. Jeremiah Evarts wrote near the end of his life, “At times I am exceedingly cast down as to the result. … It seems a most remarkable Providence that the bill should pass, when a majority present showed themselves to be … opposed to it. This strange state of things should make us stand astonished at the ways of Providence. … My comfort is that God governs the world.”
The truth of the Bible promises that God will make all things right one day. That is what Jeremiah Evarts believed when his battle to defend the oppressed Cherokee ended in failure. Though the truth does not guarantee success every time, there is a God in heaven who sees all and who is pleased when His children intervene for the defenseless.
Questions about truth
Have you ever been bullied or watched someone else suffer from a bully’s behavior? If so, what did you want to do? If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
Think about the Golden Rule—“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). How does this truth change the way you act toward others?
When God doesn’t make things work out the way we think He should, what are some truths that we can still believe?
Truth in action
Consider specific ways that your family can show compassion for “the least of these” in your community. For example, you could volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate items to a food pantry, or sign up to help at a local charity. Talk to your pastor to find out if you can participate in a church-sponsored mission or community outreach.
Praying together for truth
You have made me as I am, Lord. Every detail of size and intellect and talent matters to You. Nothing was by chance. Even my day of birth, my country, my family were chosen by You—all for reasons I will never fully comprehend. But to know that You ordered it all is enough. As the Artist of my life, may You be pleased with how I use the colors You have given me. For the good of Your kingdom, I pray. Amen.
Excerpted from Growing Together in Truth ©2011 by Barbara Rainey. Published by FamilyLife Publishing. Used with permission.