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Should Christians Protest in the Streets?


Hong Kong protesters using lasers, August 2019 Credit: Studio Incendo/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 2.0

A few years ago, I was travelling in the southern U.S., and on Sunday I went to church. I found the church at random; they had a sign on a sidewalk because they met in a rented hall. I joined the small group and I enjoyed the service, mostly. When they made the announcements about activities in the next few weeks, they included the plans for a protest. They planned to meet on a street near a busy mall, and protest. I didn’t understand what they were protesting, they just planned to protest. People were told to show up early to get their signs, and to get the event organized.

That was something new for me. I didn’t plan to join them, but they talked about it like a pot-luck dinner, or a Boy Scout meeting in the gym. It was just something that they did.

So, should we all do that? Should Christians protest in the streets?

In Hong Kong, where people have been protesting against the Communist Government, Christians have acted as leaders in some protests. A hymn “Hallelujah to the Lord” has become like an anthem for the protests.

In Iraq, where people are protesting against the government, Christians have stayed away. Apparently, most of the protests are in Shiite Muslim neighborhoods, and not in Sunni Muslim areas, and Christians live mostly among the Sunnis. Religion seems to be an influence for the protests, and people have been killed. One group of young Christians have sent out a message that they sympathize with the protestors, but they are not allowed to join in.

And in Pakistan, Christians have demonstrated in the streets, and the demonstrations have almost become riots. Cars were smashed and rocks were thrown at the police, and the police used tear gas and water cannons on the protestors. The Christians were protesting mistreatment and violence from their Muslim neighbors.

Christians protesting in the streets is more common than I thought, and the idea is probably coming to a street near you. Brace yourself.

But should we join the protests, when they start?

We can all sympathize with persecuted Christians in places like Pakistan and Iraq, and it’s good to say something. Also, we recently had an election and I voted. I’m a citizen, and a Christian, and voting is a responsibility for me. It’s not a demonstration in the streets, but I expressed my opinion.

The young Christians in Iraq want to protest, as citizens. And the demonstrations in Hong Kong are not religious, but the Communists are officially atheist and they have persecuted Christians, and people from other religions. Christians should be concerned.

I was reading in the Bible book of 1 Corinthians a few days ago, and I saw some words that I have hardly noticed before. I have read these words, but I saw them better this week:

But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

1 Corinthians 4: 19 and 20

An old man, Paul, was annoyed with some Christians in the city of Corinth, and he told them he was coming for a visit, and he was going to fix the problem. He was going to fix them. He didn’t plan to talk, he was going to repair the damage in the church, with power.

Yikes.

I didn’t notice before, how powerful the first Christian leaders were. They were ‘less talk and more action’ people, and that is why we are here today. There wasn’t much talk, many arguments, about social issues. There was power from God to change people. So many people were changed that the world changed.

All the governments and powers that controlled the world two thousand years ago are gone today, but the people who name Jesus as their leader are the largest community in the world, more than two billion of them. I won’t judge if they are all devoted followers of Jesus, but the numbers are impressive.

In China, when the Communists gained power in 1949, the Christians were seen as a small group that would soon disappear. Their ideas came from foreign missionaries from western countries, and Communism could replace those ideas. When I was young, we wondered if any Christians were left in China. But today, we know that China has more people who claim to be Christians, than any other country in the world. Protestants alone number about 100 million, probably with ten percent growth per year, for about the last forty years.

The numbers are estimates, there are no official statistics, but Jesus did not go away, as expected.

God has power that is greater than our words.

There may be reasons for Christians to protest in the streets, but we can’t replace the power of God.

I remember a family that was broken by adultery, and bigamy. It was awful to watch as the Christians, a mother and her daughters, were mocked and swindled of their property. The eloquent words and the power belonged to the other side. I will skip the details, but one of the Christians was arrested and spent a night in jail, and at one time I was called to testify in court. I was not called to the stand, but I saw the power arranged against those Christians. Many of us prayed for them, and then I heard about a church service. One of the children was old enough to make decisions, and she decided to be baptized. In the small meeting, she spoke a few brave words, next to a plastic swimming pool. It was all low budget, but I saw the power of God in that pool. A brave girl spoke the testimony of Jesus.

The Christians all survived the assault, and got on with their lives. Years later, one of the leaders on the other side contacted me and begged me to speak to the family. The people on the dark side had split in anger and started suing each other, and he was desperate to be reconciled with the good people.

God has great power.

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2: 1 to 5

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