I’ve watched many videos of the January 6 assault on our capital. I use the word “assault” rather than protests because when people are smashing windows, hammering down doors with fire extinguishers and hitting police with baseball bats, a line has clearly been crossed from free speech to violence. It’s also true that in that crowd, before the assault there were many legal, rightful protesters, protesting within the law. Not all present that day were assaulting the capital.
And I have no idea how many of those who committed violence were Christians or not, but there were Christian crosses and signs everywhere clearly indicating some Christians were present. So, it got me thinking about whether Christians should, or must protest differently than non-Christians. In other words, are there methods of protest that are legal for all U.S. citizens, but unacceptable for Christians? I believe there are.
I want to start with this principle: The law tells us what we have a right to do, or may do. But the Bible, justice and love tells us what we ought to do, must do and may not do.
In other words, because of the Bible Christians have fewer moral choices than non-Christians. So how does that work in real life? Because of the 1st Amendment right of free speech, the law allows us to say almost anything we want as loudly as we want. A citizen has the legal right to swear, name-call and scream at anyone in protest and write all of those on signs. However, free speech is legal to a point. As one Supreme Court Justice once observed, “Freedom of speech has its limits. It does not give one the right to cry “fire” falsely in a crowed theatre endangering others.” However, Jesus and the Bible teaches us to set our moral standards higher than our Constitution.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:8
“…because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:20
So for Christians, saying unkind, disrespectful, or vulgar things about other people is off limits, regardless of our free speech rights.
There’s a second principle that should also govern our behavior: The will of God cannot be done by violating the will of God.
Another way of thinking about this principle is that we may not use sinful means to achieve what we want, even if our objectives are pure. To protest LGBTQ, pro-abortion, or even mask policies or laws, Christians may not use hurtful, unkind language, spoken out loud, on social media, or on signs that they would not use if Jesus was standing next to them, regardless of the righteousness of the cause, or our good intentions. That would include forwarding, or posting unkind, or misleading information from others. I’m shocked how many provably false stories others have sent to me, without the sender verifying their accuracy, just because it re-enforced what they already believed. In fact they were passing on a lie. And if you pass on a lie, without investigating it, it’s a lie!
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
I’ve had people tell me that if they followed “my rules” non-Christians or the opposition would just walk all over us. Really? Is Christ’s power really that limited that he needs help from us even if it violates his “Love your neighbor as yourself,“ command? It’s true that Christians who obey the law of love may get walked on occasionally, but we’re not powerless.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4
Besides prayer and biblical wisdom, as citizens Christians still have the ballot box, free speech within limits, and we can work and give on behalf of candidates and policies that we believe in and we have the law and courts to address our grievances.
Frankly, I’ve read Facebook and Instagram posts by “Christians” who I believe are an embarrassment to Jesus. We are commanded to be Christ’s representatives on earth. When Jesus commanded us to “turn the other cheek” and “love our enemies” he knew full well others might slap us again, or take advantage of us. (They did the same to him!) Nevertheless, unless you’re willing to call Jesus naïve, there are some ”rights“ we have no right to use. To do differently is to say to God, “you’re ways are not enough.”
“Make it your ambition to live a quiet life… so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 Non-Christians are watching us.
In addition to politics and moral issues, almost nothing tempts us to act un-Christlike than money and lawsuits. For the next four weeks, those are my blog topics. Enjoy!