A Christian Response to Civil Unrest
Grace and peace to all of you. I have never written a blog before but thought it might be a good means to share a couple of thoughts as we all collectively process the events of the last weeks. My desire is to seek what God is saying to us through these experiences. This is our Christian journey and we will not have all the answers. I also am very aware of my bias to form an opinion and try to think about how scripture might support my position. I confess that this is wrong and dangerous. If you hear a political bias in what I have written, please know that is not my intent. I have done my best to develop thoughts only after I have opened the pages of God’s word.
I began by searching scripture to try and better understand what the Bible has to say about justice. This led me to consider four words: justice, judgment, authority, and love.
Biblical justice is in some ways similar to social justice but is principally very different. Biblical justice is an act of love. As one theologian has said, biblical justice is giving ourselves away to those who have no voice. The following exhortation is repeated throughout both the old and new testament. “For the Lord, your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10: 17-19) Christian justice is defending the cause of the orphan. It is taking care of those who cannot care for themselves like the widow. It is loving the foreigner and sojourner in the land. The foreigners are those who don’t fit in with the majority. They are those whose customs and culture are different. Those who don’t have a voice. If you are interested in injustice, you must read Isaiah 58. It is moving and powerful. Justice is love.
In the vernacular of 21st century English, justice and judgment are often used interchangeably. However, Biblical judgment and biblical justice have very different meanings. We are commanded to “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37) We are to do justice and judge not. Vigilante justice is not biblical justice. Even when we are being “persecuted”, we are to “bless”, “live in harmony”, and “live peace”. Romans 12:14-20 tells us these things and reminds us that “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Social change comes through the gospel. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us to root out the false teacher within our church but asks “for what do I have to do with outsiders (non-Christians)” Without the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart men and women, they will have no ability to do good. The work of the church is a passion to bring the Gospel to a broken and hurting world. Justice tells us to defend the cause of those who do not have a voice, but God alone is the judge of the unbelieving world.
God’s final judgment will come to all of us on the final day, however, He has also graciously provided a means of rule, authority, and judgment for today. “Let every person 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 authority resists what God has appointed”. To honor our government's authority is to honor God - full stop. God provided the institution of government as “God’s servant for good” and as a reflection of his good character. This is in no way a promise that government leaders are godly, righteous, or good. In fact, history has taught us the opposite. It is the institution and office which is good. Yes, we should disagree with that which is not good, but do so in a way that does not dishonor the office lest we “resist God”. There will be evil in every political party until the earth is made new. We are to defend the cause of the oppressed, but not dishonor authority in so doing. “Above all, every day, in all we do we are to love. “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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mathew 5:43-48) It is helpful to recognize the command to love our neighbor, our self, and our enemy is “agape” love. We are not commanded to eros (romantically) love everyone. That would just be weird. We are not commanded to phileo (BFF) love everyone either. We will not be friends with everyone. We are, however, commanded to love our enemy in the way Christ has to love us. When we were enemies of God, he unfairly, undeserving, and unjustly died in our place. Christ did not love us because we had the right theology, political views, or were even loveable. He loves us because every man, woman, and child on the planet was created in the image of his Father. Our political “enemy” is no more evil or no greater an enemy of God than we once were when He chose to give us eternal life with the gift of His defend justice, but not in judgment of the world, honor government authorities, and do all of this as an act of love. Two questions for myself are, “How am I doing defending the cause of those who have no voice?” “How am I doing loving my enemy?”