My favorite Maya Angelou poem is ‘And Still I Rise.’ This writing opens with, “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may tread me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I’ll rise.” The general theme running through the poem is that regardless of how someone puts another person down, there is still the ability and the power to rise. This truth is not only found in poetry, but it is also found in our Bible and revealed in the life of Jesus Christ. Our faith teaches us that we will experience putdowns, and all sorts of oppression, but through the power of Jesus Christ, we have the ability and the power to rise.
During Jesus’ arrest and trial, people told lies about him. In fact, the Sanhedrin went looking for people who would lie about Jesus to put him to death. The chief priests, elders and all the council presented false witness against Jesus to put him to death (Matthew 26:59). Rather than refuting their lies, getting on the defense and debating the truth, Jesus remained silent. He knew that he would rise. This should be our response when people lie and talk about us. In this life, people waste their time talking about other people.
We have all been the subjects of someone else’s conversation. We have had lies told about us. We have had juries filled with people who do not even know us and haters who gather to pass judgment with the sole intent of finding us guilty. We have had the ‘privilege’ of having people investigate who we say we are and criticize the good that we do—or even the suffering we are enduring. The purpose of this kind of talk is to put us down and to keep us from rising. We can expect to be talked about. They talked about Jesus.
People talked about Jesus during his ministry and false witnesses rose up against Jesus during trial, because he intimidated them. They did not understand him, and the good he did threatened them. We know the story. They convicted Jesus, hung him on a cross and watched him die. This happened on Friday. Then early Sunday morning, Jesus rose. We will have this to happen to us, but we must respond in the same way Jesus did, and let them keep on talking. In the end, we will rise.
The truth is that no one or nothing can stop us from rising. We have something on the inside of each of us insuring that no matter how words, insults or negativity try to knock us down—we will still rise. We can testify with Yolanda Adams: “Shattered, but I’m not broken, wounded—but time will heal. Heavy the load, the cross I bear, lonely, the road I trod I dare, shaken—but here I stand. Weary, still I press on. Long are the nights, the tears I cry; dark are the days, no sun in the sky—yet still I rise.