How ironic that groups who are protesting social injustice are betraying their own cause.
Is Violence an Answer?
When we read about certain social injustices and then see violence erupt, including the looting of businesses and destruction of property, I see much hypocrisy in this. I’m sorry, but destroying police cars, and throwing projectiles at law enforcement, looting and burning businesses, and injuring people is when you’ve lost my support. Violence and looting are not proper responses to social injustice. It’s like saying, “What the courts ruled was wrong, so let’s break the law to show we fight social injustice,” but this is exactly what’s happening, not only in America, but in other places around the world. For Christ-followers, it is wrong to respond to social injustice with more social injustice, and particularly when the violence exceeds what they are protesting about. Are there exceptions? Perhaps there are extreme cases when the government eliminates civil rights, takes away the people’s power to vote and to protest (peacefully), and use extreme tactics to enforce their own agenda to the detriment of the people, however, rare is the exception that would allow for violence. Even though this was largely how this nation was founded, the difference was, they didn’t go out and burn and destroy public and private property. North Korea would be a great example of a nation’s need to overthrow their government because Kim Jong Un has severely oppressed, deprived, and even murdered his own people, and the increase in poverty is largely due to their guns-over-grain expenditures. They spend enormous amounts of their gross national product to build weapons of mass destruction, while not providing enough food for their own people. They prefer bullets over bread, propaganda over people, and totalitarian control over civil rights, but in the vast majority of cases, violence only begets more violence, and in the end, everyone loses.
Jesus’ Response to Injustice
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave the Beatitudes, and said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:43-45). That’s directly opposed to the way the world treats their enemies. They try to destroy or “get even” instead of praying for them and loving them and doing good to them. I realize that’s a radical way of life, but Jesus was most certainly radical in His day and yet remains so. Jesus is powerfully uniting among some, and yet greatly offensive to others, but Jesus teaches us that we have a higher calling than to get even or get back at their enemies. Its small wonder that they said of the early church that “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6), but it’s not that they turned the world upside down, but right side up. The world just didn’t recognize it.
In Luke’s account of the Beatitudes, he records Jesus telling us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 6:27-29). That’s not referring to a physical slap on the cheek, but our response to being insulted for His name’s sake. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we continually allow someone to strike us on one check and then the other. That’s ripping a text out of context to create a false pretext. Jesus is speaking about persecution, not about being literally slapped in the face. This means, when you are persecuted, you don’t take it personally. It is Jesus and His message that they hate, not necessarily you. When we pray for them, we are turning the other cheek because we do not seek after revenge. We know we can trust God with that, so we choose to leave that up to Him. That’s not our responsibility. We are to pray for those who persecute us, do good to those who do bad things to us, and love those who hate us. We never return hate for hate, but we fight hate with love, persecution with prayer, and return good for bad. That’s a far cry from what we see in our streets today!
Making Straight the Crooked
Many of the Old Testament Scriptures talk about God as the only One Who can make straight what is crooked (Eccl 7:13), and that day is coming (Dan 12:2-3; Rev 20:12-15). The Apostle Paul, along the same lines as Jesus’ teaching, wrote “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom 12:14), but also, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:17-18). That takes away our excuse for rioting, looting, burning, and destroying personal and public property, not to mention endangering the lives of others. Paul is writing to a severely persecuted church in Rome. Many had lost have lost their jobs, were disowned by family, and some lost everything…even their lives, but Paul is trying to reassure them that God is the Judge, not us. He will take care it all. That’s why we don’t repay evil for evil. We allow the civil authorities to take care of that, and what they miss, God will not. Every one of us will stand before God. We must give an account for everything that we’ve ever done, including every idle word we spoke (Matt 12:36).
We must not respond like the world does to social injustice with violence and hate, but rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:20-21). If we see a great social or private injustice, we should certainly speak up, but burning, looting, destroying and harming others don’t solve anything. Rather than getting even, we are commanded to “be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom 13:1-2). Law enforcement is part of the sovereignty of God, so “if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:4).
How tragic that groups who are protesting social injustice are betraying their own cause. I say it’s hypocritical to protest social injustice by violence and destruction. The very thing they are protesting is the very thing they are doing…but even worse, because the violence and damage that occurs in communities and cities far exceeds that of the social injustice that they are protesting. How tragic that people protest things that are wrong, and then do far worse in responding with violence, death, and destruction. Rather than fighting it by legal means through political and social means, protestors often seek change illegally. It can certainly backfire on their cause. What they’re doing in their protests is sometimes worse than what they are protesting against. It makes no sense to use violence to fight social injustice, because then, that’s a higher degree of social injustice than the one they were protesting against. I cannot see how it helps to have public and private property damaged or destroyed, or worse, someone losing their life, just because there is a case of social injustice. I’m sorry, but they haven’t helped their cause when they do things like that.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.