“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…?” -Deuteronomy 10:12
Things are moving too fast. I had to scrap the devotion I wrote for this morning after listening to the news. We all have the protests against student fees on our minds, and things are not proceeding everywhere as peacefully as in Pretoria. The video of police shooting rubber bullets at students at Rhodes University is shocking at any rate, even if it’s not entirely clear what is going on there.
What is a Christian to say? What is a Christian to do?
This verse gives us some important counsel about what God requires. Finally He’s the one we serve, it’s finally His ways that must give direction to our lives, it’s finally Him whom we fear.
A Christian can in good conscience protest. “In good conscience” – that means here that the act of protesting doesn’t automatically mean turning your back on what God requires of you.
At least, not more than in anything else that you do.
Now, there are certain things that are clearly sin, that cannot be done in good conscience. For that list, I’d simply refer you to the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. But for everything else – protesting included – the key is actually these words: “fear the Lord your God.”
In other words: As in other things, if you protest in the confidence that what you are doing is righteous and pleasing to God, so that you need not fear him anymore, you’ve already fallen into the sin of self-righteousness. Instead, your confidence must come from somewhere else, somewhere that allows the fear of God to continue in your heart.
That somewhere else is the cross of Jesus Christ. He bore your sins, not only the obvious ones everyone recognises as such, but also the actions that in human eyes seem to fall into an unclear grey area – the ones which the scriptures neither command nor forbid. He died for those things as well.
And the Holy Spirit calls you to a life of faith in this crucified Jesus – a life in which you trust not in yourself, but in His work for you in death and resurrection, to assure your righteousness – not self-righteousness, but Christ-righteousness.
You cannot have this faith without the fear of God. But if you have both, you can have the confidence to act, even to protest. It’s not a license to sin. The cross of Christ doesn’t make it ok to vandalise university property, set cars on fire, or make threats of violence.
But it does make it ok to participate in this democracy: to stand up for your rights, to object to corruption, and to call those leaders to task who aren’t doing the jobs they’ve been elected to do.
This won’t happen without negative consequences which you and many others will have to bear. Therefore if you choose to do it, do it as a Christian, in service to God. Be a voice of reason, order, and peace. Do not be silent, but oppose the violence and threats of violence. Call your leaders to task, not just at the university but also among the protesting students.
And as in everything, remember this: In Jesus Christ God has given you everything, made you an heir of His kingdom. That you as a Christian must suffer in this life is really of no consequence. If you’re in this, you’re in it for your neighbour.