The difference between peaceful protesting and mob violence is as clear as night and day. It is the difference between right and wrong, respect and arrogance, constructive change and anarchy. To the Christian, the choice is clear, and there are several lessons this time in our nation’s history illustrates:
1. Watch where it goes. If you are considering some kind of protest, you should weigh very carefully the dangers and the risks of what you are about to do. What looks like a harmless march in the street, can degenerate quickly into dangerous interference with traffic, inciting riotous behavior, looting, burning, clashing with the police, injury and death. You may think you can control your own behavior, but remember there may be people there you can’t control. There may be paid protesters and other outsiders present for the specific purpose of creating a disruption. Have you ever been caught up in a mob? It’s not a pretty sight.
I have watched cattle get caught up in a stampede. Peaceful one moment, they were suddenly excited by the rushing, senseless actions of others, and they found themselves with no choice but to run along or get run over. Cattle may be excused for acting like that, but people should have enough sense to avoid such situations. Folks, there are much better ways of protesting than exposing yourself and others to needless harm.
2. Consider its effectiveness. Do you think the owner of a small drugstore, whose property is looted and vandalized by protesters, is going to be sympathetic with their position? Do you think he will join, hand-in-hand with their cause? How about the taxpayers, who are watching this violence on television, and seeing police cars and other public property being destroyed? Do you think the feelings which are being generated in their hearts are conducive to resolving the underlying problems here?
The truth can suffer in the wrong hands. I have seen the cause of righteousness mishandled so badly that people cheered when error finally prevailed. That’s exactly how bad laws get made. Anger and violence seldom produce anything worthwhile, but they often bring about deep-seated hatred and resentment in the other direction.
3. Remember it is never right to do wrong. The apostle Paul did not say, “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers so long as you agree with what they do.” Our Lord did not say, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, burn his property and let everybody know that you will not be abused.” It’s never right to do wrong, and it’s never acceptable to use the injustices of others as an excuse to commit our own. “And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same,” (Rom. 13:3).
Becoming a Christian means committing to a life of righteousness. It means adopting a way of life in harmony with and imitation of Jesus Christ. Living righteously when everything is going our way is not difficult. It is at challenging times, when we face injustices and cruelty and criminal acts that our own commitment to righteousness is really tested. Anyone can be a Christian when it’s easy and popular. But the real test is how we act when we face persecution, opposition, and illegality. Do we take these things in stride, and seek to bring about respectful and meaningful change? Or do we become angry, violent and hateful?
4. Think about the best use of your time and talents. The Bible says, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” (Eph. 5:16). We are also cautioned to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” (Col. 4:5). If you feel strongly about some injustice, there are some powerful things you can do. Most of them begin on your knees. But the most powerful thing of all is setting an example which inspires others. It’s an example of Christianity, of meekly conducting your life like the most influential man who ever walked on this earth, (1 Pet. 2:21).
Mob violence has no place in the life of a Christian. It should be rejected and denounced emphatically by every follower of Christ. May we not support or encourage it in any way. Rather, may we strive to calmly and rationally understand the issues, and address them productively like Jesus would. And most of all, may we live our lives in such a way that the thought of such lawlessness and violence would never occur to us!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.