Except you’re living under a rock, and even if you are, since you are reading this on the internet, I can safely assume you are somewhat conversant with what has been happening in Nigeria.
The country has been protesting against police brutality, extra-judicial killings, and extortion of its citizens. It’s sad that the very people who are supposed to be protecting us against these acts are the same ones we are petitioning the government against.
But you know all about this already. Much ink has been spilled on the details of this protest and my intention is not to address the major talking points of the protest or revisit the sad stories we’ve heard from people but to talk about what should be the Christian disposition to the ongoing protest.
I have watched as friends, family, and even some pastors have interacted with the protest, and they’ve left me with more questions than answers. I feel they have not hit at the heart of the matter, at least as it concerns me as a Christians. If we have been called to conduct ourselves in fear during our stay here on the earth (1 Pet 1:17) and to live no longer for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Cor 5:15), then you can’t proffer the same things to me as the world. You need to consider how I can live for Him who died for me and not lump me with the world who are not called by His name. In fact, Peter in 1 Peter 1:15 says- but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior (emphasis added). Christians have literally been called to be hagios, that is set apart and sacred.
So I want to share with you some of the questions that have come to mind. I’ll also attempt to answer them as one whose goal is to please God in everything including mundane things like eating and drinking (1 Cor 10:31).
Should a Christian join the current #Endsars protest?
The word protest in itself isn’t a sinful word, I mean we identify as protestant reformers. However, by protest, I mean a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something (from Google’s English dictionary). Going with this definition is why identifying with the protestant reformation and being excited when we talk about Luther’s 95 theses isn’t a sin. But when we move to talk about the current #endsars protest, my question is how does the current MO of the protest fit into the Christian call to peace? Our God is a God of peace (Rom 15:33, 16:20), and the gospel that we preach is a message about peace (Eph 6:15). We have been justified by faith, and now have peace (Rom 5:1), and the bible has asked us to pursue (diōkō in Greek meaning strive and pressing on with intensity) peace (Rom 14:19, Heb 12:14, 2 Tim 2:22) and live in peace (2Cor 13:11, 1Th 5:13). I am not saying the protest is violent, but neither is it peaceful, at least not how the bible describes peace and calls us to live at peace with our neighbors. Peace has an idea of harmony and tranquil. Tranquil is the idea of calm and being free from disturbance. But when you mount roadblocks so that your neighbor is disturbed, then it definitely isn’t peaceful anymore, at least not from the biblical standpoint. A Christian’s behavior must always be excellent among the watching world and his neighbors (1 Pet 2:12) and he can’t be seen mounting roadblocks and infringing on someone else’s fundamental right to move about in his country nor be seen to be in support of whoever is taking away someone else’s tranquil or peace.
Having said this, I must quickly add that this is not a call to be dismissive of the reason behind the protest. Extrajudicial killings and police brutality are horrific. No matter who the person is and what intel the police have; I don’t think the laws of Nigeria grant them the right to take a life without the sanction of the courts. God also is clear about how He feels about this kind of act in Deut 17:6- “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. Extrajudicial killings look like murder to me and if so, our God hates murder and reserves the strictest punishment for such a crime. Genesis 9:6 is very clear- Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. Also Ex 21:12- “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. These verses show us the mind of God concerning murder and we as His children should detest it as well. Not only detest it but like Nathan, speak up against it (2 Sam 12:7). In fact in that story, David’s anger was right to burn greatly (2 Sam 12:5), even though he was being a hypocrite at that time, but still, I think his attitude at hearing about injustice is a right one. Our God detests oppression and we should too.
Jer 22:3- ‘Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Prov 31:8,9- Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Ps 82: 3,4- Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
See, not only should we detest injustice and oppression and never be a part of it, but we should defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Is it okay to be angry?
As people both created and recreated in the image of God, I think it’s okay to be angry. If by angry, we mean a strong feeling of displeasure, then I think it’s okay, as long as it is directed towards the evil we read about.
Now I am aware of the tightrope we must walk here, and I want to try to provide you with help.
Rom 1:18 tells us For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and as His children, we should also imitate this and hate injustice, extrajudicial killings, oppression, and every other sin (including your private sins).
However, we have Paul’s warning about anger in Eph 4:26,27- BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. See, even anger for the right purpose and with the right motive can lead to sin. And you can sense the tightrope here with the word “and yet”. If you want to be angry at the horrific stories and the evil perpetrated by these men, and the sinfulness of sin and the extent of the curse, and the wretchedness of these men, having the right motive, that’s okay, but do not sin. Do not let it become bitterness or start developing vengeful thoughts. We still have to be holy not only in words, but in thoughts, motives, desires, and affections as well. Friends, vengeance belongs to God and he will repay. Listen to Paul’s warning in verse 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity to fill you with bitterness, cursing, vengeful thoughts, slander of the government, and murderous thoughts through hatred for particular government officials or individual names trending on social media.
I have more thoughts, but let me end this first installment quoting from Luke 18
He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?
Brothers and sisters, do not lose heart. By the work of Christ and our faith in His person and work, we have not only been justified but also adopted as God’s children and we have the benefit of His presence. Friends, you know what this means right? You know how sometimes we wish we could speak to the president and ask him to do such and such? Well, you have the presence of the only Sovereign, the omnipotent (having unlimited power), and won’t he bring about justice for us His children if we start right now to cry to Him day and night, and will he delay over us?