I Protest – Part 2
In our last post we discussed the “protest culture” of America and briefly considered a Biblical response to violent protest. That was the easy task. Today we will assess the church’s role in peaceful protest. This is extremely important because many voices are calling upon the church to demonstrate its concern for social justice by actively joining the protest movement – particularly in regard to issues of perceived racial inequality.
Unlike violent demonstrations, peaceful protests are legal and so we may not condemn them as a violation of the law of government. Additionally, they do not inherently violate the law of love. However, if we cannot condemn peaceful protests out of hand, are we required to recognize them as a biblical solution to problems of injustice? The answer, biblically, is no.
In all of the New Testament there is not a single instance of the church mobilizing a protest against the evils of the day – which were far more rampant than then in 2020. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles called on the church to march the streets in peaceful protest or rise up in violence – instead, they called upon us to make disciples. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20)
To reaffirm the Scriptural understanding of the churches mission is not to ignore injustice. We should be quick to affirm that what the world calls “racism” – the hatred of a person simply on the basis of his race (as generally represented in skin color) – does in fact exist, and it exists within the church. Additionally, before we throw out slogans like “there is no such thing as race,” and “the problem is sin,” we must affirm that fact that in the history of our country, some races of people have been, and continue to be treated more harmfully than others. To ignore this is to rightfully open ourselves up to the accusation of being uncaring and unjust. Overlooking the truth that the destructive treatment of those in our country with black skin by those in power has left a legacy of pain and injustice is also harmful and disingenuous. In recognizing this reality of the fallen world we live in, we are weeping with those who have had many occasions to weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation (Romans 12:15,16).
The evils of our day should cause us to search our own hearts and carefully consider the theology and philosophy of ministry of our church to see if there is any incipient “racism” to be found. We are certainly not required to agree with the current voices that maintain that there has been no progress in racial inequality. This is demonstrably not the case. We also need to be able to recognize that many, if not most, who are protesting today have been the beneficiaries of the tremendous strides forward that this county has made on the issue of race (a fact which seems entirely absent in the current discussion). We must not be bullied by our culture into getting “woke” and agree that all non-black people are inherent racists (which in and of itself smacks of overt racism).
This “white=racist” argument is not true of unbelievers (regardless of the claims of the Critical Race Theory proponents). Although partiality and hatred (racism) are endemic to the sinful human heart, no one is racist simply because of their skin color – if they hate others because of their race it is a personal choice they have made to violate God’s law. It is definitely a misrepresentation of true believers who have been transformed into new creations by Christ. We may struggle with racism, but we are not at the core, racists (if a person remains racist to the core they cannot be a true believer – 1 Cor 6:9-11). Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17).
With this expressed, it is appropriate to broaden out our appeal for every person (regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status) to be treated fairly under the laws of our country. The Bible does not use a term like “racism” but condemns all forms of hatred and partiality as wicked in the extreme. To hate any man, and to harm him as a result of that hate, is condemned as a sin that Christ came to die for. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell (Matt 5:22).
However, we must always move from this affirmation of justice to a call for all men everywhere to repent. Although the Biblical record certainly acknowledges the barriers that exist between races, genders, socioeconomic groups, etc., the same solution is always provided. Christ came to break down those barriers and to bring unity to all who repent and take hold of His sacrifice (Eph 3:12-18). Only the Spirit of God can bring true unity by placing every believer into union with Christ so that we become His family, His body. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).
Additionally, we must proclaim that the greatest relational barrier is not between various groups of human beings, but between all men and God himself. This barrier of sin can only be overcome through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Above all, we must affirm that to join hands with those who are calling for peace and justice apart from Christ (or with an inclusive Christ who does not require repentance and faith) is antithetical to the mission of the church. While the church affirms a desire for all people to be treated justly, she understands that the only true, lasting, and guaranteed justice comes from a right relationship with God through Christ.
The ability of human governments to provide justice and safety is short lived and precarious at best. The only guarantee of justice the church can offer is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This comes through the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel to a lost and dying world. The church must not succumb to pressure to abandon its primary mission – to see true righteousness permanently established – in order to strive for an unattainable temporal righteousness that will only result in eternal destruction in the end.
For the church to partner with those who hate Christ, in an attempt to bring a peace apart from Christ, is to denigrate the sacrifice of Christ and dishonor the God who sent Christ. Certainly Satan does not mind which way he distracts people from eternal hell – either through inciting them to violent, harmful protests or calming them into benign peaceful rallies, both of which leave those protesting, and those being protested for, dead in their trespasses and sin.
Certainly an individual within the church may choose to peacefully protest, as his conscience allows, in order to express a desire for earthly justice to be accomplished. However, he or she must be very careful not to imply that their motivation and desires are the same as unbelievers who protest in a similar fashion.
As a church, then, we long to provide a godly, biblical, compassionate, and truthful response to a culture in crisis. This will not happen as we exchange heated words on social media, wring our hands in despair while listening to Fox news, or march the streets in protest. We need to press forward in the mission of the church to make disciples of all the nations. We must communicate our love and care for those harmed by the evils of the world by introducing them to Jesus Christ, the only one who can provide healing and lasting peace.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful (John 14:27).