Monday 19 April 2021
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Remebering the protest in protestant

Sadly we live in a country where we are overwhelmed by crime. We are all sad, frustrated and angry about murders on farms, in suburbs and in townships – it affects all of us. It’s a South African problem!
During the past week there was a lot of reaction about this on social media. Videos were posted, opinions were raised and protest initiatives like Black Monday were organised. In all of this, calls for prayer and abasement before God played a special part. It’s about this narrative that I want to share a few thoughts.
During the month of October some Christians are celebrating 500 years since the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church’s theology of salvation and sacraments by nailing his 95 statements to the door of a church in Wittenberg. This initiated the religious movement that became known as Protestantism. Luther and the other reformers were protesters, because they protested against the ruling theological thinking of the day, arguing on behalf of those suffering under religious, social, and economic oppression. They felt discomfort with the status quo and they set out to change the system. So, at the heart of Protestantism is the courage to stand up and protest against injustice.
In light of this I think it’s a good thing that Christians are beginning to find their voice against injustice in our society and against crime and murder. We must rediscover the protest in Protestantism, BUT… (yes there is a very important BUT at the end of this sentence).
Our protest can never fuel the flames of violence. Violence brings more violence. Jesus was very clear about that in his teachings. And please do not use obscure Old Testament verses, out of context, to legitimise calls for violence and retribution. Jesus and His love and mercy are the lens through which we must read the whole of the Bible.
Secondly, our protests can never be about race. Crime doesn’t know race, class, age, job description or any other distinction. Our protest should therefore be about justice for all. It should be inclusive and not polarising. Again, Jesus and His inclusive love and mercy are the lens through which we must look at all people. Then thirdly, please do not use God in a tit-for-tat, quid pro quo type of way. I keep on hearing people saying that God will sort everything out if only we turn back to Him; if we confess our sins. Does that mean all this bad stuff is happening because we turned away from God and He will only act if we confess? What does that say about God? What kind of God will do that? It is definitely not the loving, compassionate and merciful God of the Bible that Marten Luther stood up for – the God that’s with us when we’re hurting.
And when it comes to prayer the narrative is that we should pray more and God will magically deliver us from this problem. Even better if we get together and pray in our thousands. Are we really going to use prayer to strong arm God to do what we want? Will God really act more decisively if we pray in our thousands? More so than when I pray alone at home? Again, what does that say about God? Is He sitting and waiting to act only if thousands starts praying, doing nothing while we are not praying in the “correct” way? As if there is a correct way to pray!
The above also make the assumption that God doesn’t already know what’s happening in our country and we have to tell Him about it and get Him to act. God knows exactly what’s going on and I think He is very sad, hurt and even angry about people hurting other people. He is with every person that gets hurt or killed. He is there to help us through the tough times. He is able to work every detail of our lives into something good.
In this time of celebrating the Reformation, we must find our protesting voices. Yes, go out and protest all the injustice in our society, wear black if it will help to raise awareness, come together and protest, lament, be angry, pour your heart out before God, but please let us think twice about how we use God. And always remember God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves (Romans 8: 26-27).

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