Those of us in the older generations know that protests are nothing new to our country. The last couple of years, however, have been so wrought with tension and dissension that our nation is more polarized than ever, and protests have been occurring with even greater frequency.
Among them were the violent protests across the country following the killing of George Floyd, and then at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. In February, we saw protests on behalf of the Canadian truckers who opposed vaccine mandates. And ever since the leak of the Supreme Court draft, following the eventual final ruling overturning Roe v Wade, pro-abortion protestors have been out en masse all over the country.
As a mature believer who strives to set a good example for others to follow, I must pause and consider, “What does God have to say about this?”
The younger generations are watching us. It's our job to set the tone and demonstrate a Christ-like response to the emotionally charged protests of this day. We can’t condemn Antifa and BLM protesters for their destructive behavior, yet support Canadian protesters for theirs, which was not as violent, but still had a damaging impact on the economy. We can’t condone pro-life activists waylaying abortion-minded women outside clinics and in the same breath complain about pro-abortion protestors gathering outside the Supreme Court.
The Bible offers guidance for how we should react to the divisive issues of today. The following biblical principles can also support meaningful conversations with young people in our spheres of influence.
Don’t take the law into your own hands.
In Romans 12:19, Paul warns, “Do not take revenge my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath; for it is written, ‘For it is mine to avenge. I will repay evil for evil.’” Protests, riots and mob action never leave room for God to act on our behalf. Instead, they bring God’s judgment on ourselves for our own lawlessness.
Consider that solitary protest is greater bravery.
It is often easier to hide in the crowd of protestors and surround yourself with others who will shield you and determine what you do next. I’m not speaking against legitimate peaceful assembly with thousands of others whose protests you share. Rather, I’m suggesting that there is something more righteous about standing alone against the crowd.
Look, for example, at the Ontario teacher who recently stood up in a school board meeting and spoke out against a transgender-themed book in her elementary school library. Compare that teacher’s respectful, yet assertive stand with the mobs threatening Supreme Court Justices’ lives and families outside their very homes. The difference is astounding.
When Moses returned to Egypt after 40 years, he stood alone before Pharaoh. John the Baptist went alone to confront King Herod for his wickedness. Jesus didn’t invite his disciples to join him in his temple protest. Stephen, the first martyr, stood alone at the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem and protested the bigotry and unbelief of the religious leaders.
Protests shouldn’t violate God’s laws.
As Paul said in Romans 13, God has instituted civil authority for our own good. However, Christians are bound by higher laws. We cannot rob, loot or destroy property that belongs to others. It was a sin for those protesting George Floyd’s death, and it was a sin for those who destroyed property in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.
In Matthew 7:12, Jesus instructed us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Calling people names, carrying signs that mock others in vicious ways, yelling obscenities or physically attacking others is not what God has commanded us to do. It’s why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was so careful to lead peaceful demonstrations. He knew that when we act like the devil, we should not expect to be blessed by the Lord. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
Protests should not deprive some people of their rights, while fighting for others’ rights.
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Too often, when it comes to angry protests, we aren’t looking at the whole picture. We’re focused on the thing we disagree with or want to change, without pausing to consider someone else’s pain or perspective. In helping some, we could be harming others.
Most people were appalled when Antifa destroyed buildings, looted stores, shut down businesses and stopped commerce in Seattle and Portland. Some of those same people now cheer for the Canadian truckers as though their protests are more noble or justified. While we might feel empathy for those facing a vaccine mandate that they feel is unjust, we must pause to acknowledge the other side of the coin. The economic ripples of the trucker convoy protests were significant and are still being felt to this day. And where there is no problem with lovingly and gently encouraging a woman to consider adoption instead of abortion, vandalizing abortion clinics and blocking public access is going too far.
Rioting is never right for a Christian.
Rioting is not a solution to any problem; it only creates more problems. It’s hypocritical to riot about a social problem, only to become a social problem yourself. Violence only serves to breed more violence. Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
The Bible is clear: riots will not persuade great governments to action. As Christians, we should be careful that we don’t cheer on or adopt the sin that fuels riots or reckless protests. When young people and non-believers see us doing that, we’ve taught them that it’s justified behavior, and worse, we risk losing our credibility with them.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/LordHenriVoton
Dr. Robert “Bob” Petterson is an author, speaker, former pastor and founder of the Legacy Imperative, a ministry devoted to inspiring, mobilizing and equipping grandparents, parents and other advocates for Millennials and Generation Z to evangelize and disciple their loved ones who are far from the Christian faith.