Confused over what to do and how to live in the Brave New World that is being engineered in America almost over night? Join the club. When change happens as swiftly as a presidential edict in the night it’s hard for our thinking to keep up with the pace of change. But here are a few thoughts on what we can do.
We can realize responses based on power do not work. They do not work for a number of reasons. Boycotts and the ballot box depend on having a majority. Recent polls say a majority of people now favor such things as gay marriage. We shouldn’t be surprised. If we believe Jesus, Christianity is a minority movement. “Narrow is the way that leads to life,” he said, “and few are they who find it.” In addition, Jesus says when we are faced by an evil person we are not to resist whether the evil comes in the form of a personal insult (“if someone strikes you on the cheek”), a legal action (“if someone sues you for your tunic”), or a governmental intrusion (“if someone forces you to go one mile”). Why? When we resist our reason for resisting is usually about power. We are trying to gain, or regain, power over others. In doing so people become enemies. Our goal becomes to win, not serve, or love. Jesus warns us away from this temptation.
But there is another way, a time honored Christian way, to resist unrighteous demands. When told not to speak in the name of Jesus, the early church refused to comply. When told by white pastors not to trespass in certain areas or violate other racially based unjust laws Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. refused to comply as well. Why? And what is the difference? This: true Christian resistance is not about gaining power over others or getting power back. It’s not seeing people as enemies and trying to beat them. It’s done in love, love even for those who attempt to force us to do their will. Dr. King said on many occasions that his struggle was not about civil rights for blacks. The struggle, he said, was for the soul of America. Black people were being sinned against and needed to be freed. But those who were sinning against them needed to be freed from the sin of oppression too. One of Dr. King’s lieutenants said, “What we were trying to do in those days was to save black men’s bodies and white men’s souls.”
My point is that noncompliance and resistance against unjust, unrighteous governmental or even religious dictates is allowable if done for the right reason. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for people who persecute us. If our actions are, at the deep level of our hearts, for people rather than against people we are obligated, out of love, to follow the dictates of our consciences and resist in the hopes that oppressors will one day be released from oppression themselves. Whatever you do, do it in love for those who do not love in return. No other kind of resistance deserves the name “Christian”.