There is something that happens to us when we stick up for others. It’s easy to grant ourselves license to do things that are out of character if we’re defending someone or something we care about. If a stranger insults me in public, I won’t react. I’m not built that way. I won’t even remember that it happened a short time later. But if a stranger insults my wife, the situation would be quite different. Those concerned about racial justice rightly understand themselves to be advocating for the downtrodden. That is the godliest of instincts and what God’s people should do (Proverbs 31:9; Micah 6:8). But there is a danger. We who think of ourselves as advocates for the downtrodden can become wrecking balls. We can become like the oppressors that we are working against. We can become bullies ourselves, even with a righteous cause.
Does evil need to be opposed? Yes (Isaiah 5:20). But is it possible to contend with evil and be corrupted by it? Also and all too commonly, yes (Romans 12:21; Galatians 6:1).
Scripture shows us a better way. A harder way, but a better one. The Lord Jesus tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are commanded to love. Christians are called to love everyone from our enemies to other Christians (John 13:35). Sometimes it’s hardest to love fellow Christians who feel like enemies because of the harsh attitude and tone they have adopted, and we too easily fall into responding in kind.
“But wait! Jesus cleared the Temple with a whip! He called the Pharisees names! He wasn’t some passive doormat,” comes the objection.
Using the example of Jesus in these matters to justify unkindness is poor Bible-reading. It mistakes our role and God’s. While Christians are called to love those who oppose us, God promises to judge and avenge (Romans 12:19). Christians are able to show kindness and love in the face of evil precisely because we trust God to judge evil.
We must also be suspicious of our own anger. When the Lord Jesus experienced anger, he was not compromised by a sinful nature. You and I are. Our motives are always mixed. Scripture is full of warnings to be wary of anger rather than to be guided by it (James 1:20, Ephesians 4:26, Proverbs 29:11).
Back to those advocating for racial justice. We must remember that the righteousness of our cause does not justify unrighteousness in our tone or methods. We must not allow a lack of love shown toward us or those we love to push us to engage in similar wicked behavior. We can only do this with the help of God’s Spirit, so we must regularly ask for help. May it never be said of us that we were bullies with a righteous cause.
- Pray that God would help you not return evil for evil.
- Pray that Christians would more clearly show the fruit of the Spirit in our interactions with each other.
- Pray that God uses the kindness of Christians as a witness to a watching world.