Let Them Hear

Go out and tell our story, Let it echo far and wide.

Make them hear you. Make them hear you.

These words, from the 1996 musical “Ragtime,” are sung by Coalhouse Walker, a main character in the musical’s intertwined plots. Coalhouse is the leader of a group of black men in Harlem in the early 20th century. Their struggle for racial justice is one of the central motivators of the story.

How justice was our battle, And how justice was denied.

Make them hear you. Make them hear you.

The group’s repeated calls for justice go unheeded, and they employ more and more drastic ways to get their message across. The song, “Make Them Hear You,” is Coalhouse Walker’s final rallying cry for his group, as he goes to face his own death at the hands of a state-sanctioned mob.

And say to those who blame us for the way we chose to fight,

That sometimes there are battles that are more than black or white…

And I could not put down my sword when justice was my right.

Make them hear you. Make them hear you.

It is a powerful and poignant song, and it speaks to a truth about sharing our witness. Some of the time, we will be heard. And some of the time, we will not. Some of the time, when giving witness to the Gospel, you have to “make them hear you.”

Jesus uses a parable to make this point, in Luke 8. Known as the “Parable of the Sower,” the story describes seed that falls in various places – on the path, on rock, among thorns, and in “good soil.” Sharing our witness is like scattering seed, and sometimes (maybe even most of the time) it doesn’t bear fruit, for a variety of reasons. 

But sometimes … it does! And those glimpses of “good soil” are what keep us going. We have good news to share, church! Go out, tell your story, and make them hear you!


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