Feelings are Fickle

[One aspect of modern-day slavery that I’m studying this semester is how the slave trade and abolition movement throughout history shape how we view slavery today. This week, I’m reading Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. It’s blowing me away.] One of the most respectable things about William Wilberforce is the way that he engaged his emotions in fighting injustice without depending on them. He was the one who said,

If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow man is to be a fanatic, I am the most incurable fanatic permitted to be at large.

If we’re going to fight injustice, we have to allow ourselves to feel the pain of our fellow men. We have to be vulnerable. But we can’t run on our feelings. After one of Wilberforce’s many defeats, he said this in a letter:

Be persuaded then, I shall still even less make this grand cause the sport of caprice, or sacrifice it to motives of political convenience or personal feeling.

He knew that he couldn’t make his fight about his feelings. He was focused on what was true: human beings, made in the image of God, were being oppressed, bought and sold for the gain of others. As long as he remembered that, it didn’t matter how he felt or what was politically convenient for him.

There are days when I wake up and don’t feel like fighting injustice. It’s not convenient, it certainly isn’t easy, and it’s not going to get easier. We have to be grounded in what is true. When our feelings are engaged, it’s a wonderful thing, but even when they’re not, we fight. We fight because people are worth it, and that’s what is true.