In today’s political climate we’re witnessing plenty of protesting — there is indeed much to protest. But some Christians, particularly in evangelical circles, believe protesting is sinful, that it’s only something that young, uneducated, unemployed, liberal fools do just for the sake of causing trouble.
The term ‘protester’ invokes strong opinions depending on whom you talk to and in what context. The word can invoke feelings of irritation, annoyance, and even anger. Like anything, protesting can be used for ugly and horrific purposes, and it’s not meant to inspire — or be motivated by — hate, rage, violence, and vengeance (i.e., Westboro Baptist Church, white supremacists, etc.).
But too often, it’s not employed enough by good people, by Jesus-followers.
Protesting is the antithesis of being apathetic, complicit, callous, and passive, and Christians should take comfort in the fact that Jesus — the son of God — was very good at it.
Sometimes Jesus did this quietly, and other times it was inflammatory, provocative, and publicly disruptive. But there’s no doubt that Jesus was a radical, a person who was eventually arrested, beaten, and sacrificed on a cross because of his words and actions.
Within the Christian life, there may be times when God calls us to complement our prayer with protesting, and throughout the Bible we see how Jesus purposefully intervened, acted, spoke, and was present in various situations in order to protest, dissent, demonstrate, object, question, defend, revolt, and challenge. Here are just a few examples:
When Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), he rejected the temptation of worldly power and boldly stood against Satan’s temptations — because Jesus was a protester.
When Jesus stormed into the temple courts, interrupted the proceeding by overturning tables, yelling, and driving both people and animals out of the room using a whip, he was condemning the greed and corruption of religious hypocrites — because Jesus was a protester (John 2:13-25).
Jesus boldly stood up and spoke in the Synagogue — one of many he would speak in — proclaiming things so countercultural and radical that he created a mob so furious at him they eventually chased him with the intention of killing him — because Jesus was a protester (Luke 4:16-31).
Jesus took his message to the masses, speaking and advocating wherever he could, and created a movement based on justice, hope, and love — because Jesus was a protester (Matt. 4:23-25).
Jesus garnered fame from the oppressed and notoriety from those in power — because Jesus was a protester (Luke 5:15).
Jesus confronted the leaders about their wrong practices, evil thoughts, and destructive deeds — because Jesus was a protester (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 11).
Jesus asked people to follow him and join his cause — because Jesus was a protester.
Jesus broke the religious expectations and laws of the day, to the point of people wanting him to die — because Jesus was a protester (John 5:16; Mark 3:1-6).
Jesus made public proclamations and tried to change social sentiment through talks, teachings, and speeches — because Jesus was a protester (Matt. 5-7).
Jesus openly rebuked, held accountable, challenged, and called out people who refused to change from their misguided ways — because Jesus was a protester (Matt. 11:20-30).
Jesus empathized and advocated for the oppressed, hurt, abused, downtrodden, abandoned, alienated, and victimized — because Jesus was a protester (Luke 7).
Jesus was viciously challenged, mocked, scrutinized, threatened, slandered, ridiculed, besmirched, and discredited by authorities and leaders — because Jesus was a protester (Luke 11: Matt. 9:34; Matt. 13:56-58).
Jesus created, inspired, and sent out others protesters — because that’s what protesters do (Matt. 10)! And these other protesters (the disciples) were eventually arrested and killed, because, they too, were protesters.
Jesus went to places he wasn’t supposed to go and talked to people he wasn’t supposed to talk to — because Jesus was a protester (John 4).
Jesus was accused by the “experts” of being disruptive and evil — because Jesus was a protester (Matt. 9:2-8).
Jesus stands alone before a mob that’s ready to kill a woman and intervenes on her behalf, saving her life — because Jesus is a protester.
Jesus devoted his life to speaking, helping, supporting, defending, empowering, healing, freeing, and loving everyone, especially saving those who were in desperate need from the hands of oppressors, rulers, officials, mobs, and those who intended to harm, kill, and destroy — because Jesus was a protester.
Throughout his life Jesus protested and brought awareness about gender inequality, religious hypocrisy, political corruption, racism, hate, segregation, empowerment, and social injustice. Christ humbly sacrificed and served to advocate for the outcasts, protect the poor, shelter the homeless, uplift the exploited, show hospitality to stranger, energize the weary, and love humanity.
Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, abused, intimidated, and arrested because he dared to become a protester. Eventually, he was arrested and put on trial, and then he was publicly humiliated, mocked, and severely tortured.
It was in this context where his greatest demonstration of protest happened: dying on the cross, where God incarnate proved to the world that love trumps evil, grace trumps revenge, mercy trumps cruelty, generosity trumps selfishness, hope trumps fear, and God trumps Satan.
So today, when politicians — and the masses that follow them — promote racism, hate, bigotry, deception, and oppressive policies that are inhumane, immoral, violent, and blatantly anti-Christian, we must ask ourselves: What would Jesus do?
Will followers of Christ follow in his footsteps and be bold enough to speak against, act against, and protest against sin? Contrary to our religious assumptions about righteousness and holiness, sometimes the most Christ-like thing we can do is protest.
Christianity isn’t political power, military might, safety, wealth, control, fame, or comfort — it’s emulating Jesus. After Jesus departed and the disciples started their various ministries, founding the church as we know it today, most of the earliest believers were ruthlessly hunted down, arrested, persecuted, and horrifically killed for following Jesus, martyred for being Divine protesters.
Defending the gospel for the sake of humanity — people love and created in the image of God — was the reason Jesus protested. Are we willing to do the same? God help us.