Judgment begins at the house of God (I Peter 4:17)
We must pursue justice out of love, not anger.
Our love for God is reflected in our fear of Him.
Fear of God is to hate evil, not people. (Proverbs 8:13)
Hating evil means that I hate the evil in me as much I hate the evil in others.
The evil in me can manifest as toxic emotions rooted in resentment about other people’s evil (Colossians 3:8-11 )
The highest motivation (Love) drives us to the highest Good (Justice), which compels us to live the highest life (Righteousness).
Justice and Righteousness are two sides of the same coin.
Justice is outward facing; righteousness is inward facing.
Righteousness is to be in right standing with God’s law.
Living righteously is the first step toward justice.
Resistance to evil begins with submission to good.
Evil is supernatural and human goodness is no match for it.
This is because human goodness is not actually good (Romans 3:10)
Only God is good.
Submission to good is submission to God.
We not only submit to God directly, but also indirectly through people and institutions to whom God has delegated authority (Romans 13:1)
The Million-Dollar Question:
Resistance to authority is ungodly, but so is the abuse of power.
How do you resist abuse while honoring authority?
Principle # 1:
The spirit of the law is greater than the letter of the law
II Corinthians 3:3-5
The spirit of the law has to do with the intent of the law.
- For example, authority is also subject to authority.
Some people quote the right Scripture, but in the wrong spirit.
- For example, some people quote Scripture and laws with a spirit of slave mastery.
No principle of Scripture is isolated from all the other principles of Scripture.
- For example, the Scripture commands us to submit to authority, not abuse.
You can’t just say the “law is the law” because no set of laws represents justice fully.
You cannot write a law for every situation.
The spirit of justice is love.
For every scenario in which there is no explicit law, do what love would do.
If you love, you are automatically fulfilling the law. (Romans 13:10)
Scripture must be evaluated in context.
Context refers not only to the text of the Scripture, but also to the application of the Scripture.
There are some laws, politics and procedures that are objective on paper, but unequitable in practice.
Principle # 2:
Don’t confuse righteous hate with personal anger
- Rebuking the wicked is a good and godly thing to do.
- Rebuking is something you do with your mouth.
- A rebuke has no power if it is not spoken or heard.
- The inversion of justice warrants judgment.
- Remember, Injustice is not only manifested as conscious intent, but also as unintentional neglect.
- Laws, policies and procedures that inadvertently produce inequity are also unjust.
Proverbs 31:8-9, 20
- Protests are part of a prophetic tradition that indicts people and institutions for violating God’s justice in the public sphere.
Principle # 3
Be meek as sheep, but bold as lions
Speak the truth, but walk in the spirit.
Challenge injustice, but leave vengeance to God (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:17-19)
Call out wickedness, but have mercy on the wicked.
Principle # 4
Begin with the supernatural
Good and evil are supernatural.
Hence, to address either, you must engage with the supernatural, which is invisible.
- Hebrews 11:2
To pursue good is to pursue something invisible and divine.
To fight evil is to fight an enemy that is invisible and demonic.
- Ephesians 6:10-18
This is why love and prayer are so powerful. practicing them is not a cop out;
Rather, love and prayer address problems at the root because the source of all evil is supernatural.
Love and prayer should be the first things you do because sometimes they are the only things you need to do.
Principle # 5
Don’t be afraid
II Timothy 1:7
You do not need a narrative of fear to validate protest against injustice.
I John 4:18
Loving others well is the result of receiving love from the Father.
When we are secure in the love of the Father, not only will we have the capacity to love our enemies, but we will be free from the fear of them.
We all express emotions as a natural part of the human experience.
This is not sin in and of itself.
Emotions become sinful when they are exalted against the knowledge of God.
The spirit of fear takes the emotion of fear and exalts it against the knowledge of God.
2 Corinthians 10:5
While the emotion of fear is natural, the spirit of fear is demonic and should be actively and persistently resisted.
You discern the spirit of fear by the story embedded in the emotion of fear.
Principle # 6
Seek first righteousness, not rights
I Corinthians 6:12
You can make a law of anything.
Just because you have a right does not mean it should be used.
Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is moral, ethical or beneficial.
Whether or not you use a right should be based on righteousness, not opportunity.
Principle # 7
The way we respond to evil doers is a judgment call
Three questions to ask when responding to conflict or difficulty:
- Should this be done or said?
- Should I do or say it?
- Should I do or say it right now?
If you cannot confidently say yes to all three questions, leave it alone.
Eight times David inquires of the Lord before he responded to his enemies:
- I Samuel 23:1-2
- I Samuel 23:4-5
- I Samuel 23:10-11
- I Samuel 23:12
- I Samuel 30:8
- II Samuel 2:19
- II Samuel 5:22-25
Keep your heart open for God to weigh in on the matter (Hebrews 3:15)
Paul speaks up about his legal rights to resist physical abuse by a law enforcement officer:
Paul explains the rights he has deferred:
I Corinthians 9:1-15
The gospel is more important than our rights.
Peace and edification are more important than our rights.
Principle # 8
Make your good works visible
Our Christian character reflected in good works is a natural world changer.
Showing good works as individuals is often straightforward and uncomplicated.
Showing good works collectively can present several complications, especially given the numerous controversies of our contemporary moment.
Most local churches can compel most of their members to agree on what is good for a Sunday service or for other matters related to the formal structures of the church.
However, there is far more difficulty getting people to agree on what is good outside of the formal structures of the church.
What compounds this problem is that when people question why the church has not done more to address contemporary injustices, generally they are not asking about what Christians are doing individually, but about what the church is doing collectively.
Here is one other challenge: What do you do if you are a justice-minded evangelical?
7 Qualities of an Effective Collective Evangelical Christian Response to Racial Injustice:
- Spiritual: Leadership graced by God because it is submitted to good.
- Natural: Leadership that can enlist people into a clear and consistent vision; this means it possesses the skill to inspire, organize and mobilize.
- Credibility: A movement whose integrity, stability and longevity create trust.
- Practically: A platform broad enough to do something of scale (both in terms of quantity and quality).
- Spiritually: A platform that honors the Christian faith while effectively addressing matters pertinent to the non-Christian community.
- Inspirationally Ambitious: The vision is big enough to be motivating.
- S.M.A.R.T. Goals: The vision is practical enough to be actionable.
- Observable Results: The vision is specific enough to be measurable.
- Commitment: There is a commitment to things that we will not see in our lifetimes.
- Skill: The leaders have the capacity to bring together historical and emerging voices.
Ways to Engage
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Peek and Pray
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph. D., 2020