This is the second post in a two-part blog that responds to a student’s comments about Fees Must Fall protests on university campuses.
In the first post, I discussed the need for humility when we engage with contentious topics (or anything in life for that matter). We looked at what a biblical response would be and considered the fact that, on the last day, we as individuals (not groups or movements) will stand before God and have to give an account for our actions. Now I would like to look at the importance of discernment, which together with humility, is vital in forming a Godly response to the issues facing our nation.
The student whose comments we’ve been reflecting on, questioned the motives of the protesters, and wondered if some acts of violence may have been motivated by hate more than a sense of justice I think this is a very good observation. Although the members of a movement may share the same goal, they are not necessarily coming at it from the same angle. Everyone is different. Our backgrounds, agendas, worldviews and ethics will vary, and we can certainly assume that not everyone will be seeking to honour and please God through their actions. Everyone may say that they’re seeking justice, but not everyone is seeking holiness.
Towards the end of last year I chatted with a young activist that I have the pleasure of knowing. She shared how genuine pain for her people and compassion for those who were suffering, prompted her to become involved in the Fees Must Fall movement. She remains part of it today. But the journey has not been without its challenges, both outward and inward. She recalled how at one point she was overcome with feelings of anger and hatred towards certain people. She went down a dark path until a friend urged her to reflect on the motives of her heart. Had she tested the spirits and prayerfully considered the righteousness of the things she was thinking and doing? In 1 John 4v1, the apostle John tells his listeners, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone into the world”. Although her motivations and many of her actions may have been Godly, was everything that she was involved in pleasing to the Holy Spirit, or were there things that would grieve Him?
Often, bloggers and commentators seem to have an either/or approach: you must either completely get behind something, or you must completely get out of the way because you are opposed to it. This seems to be a dominant spirit of our times, but it is a lie. In the world of God there are always tensions to be managed. There are biblical truths that seem to oppose each other and yet we must hold them both. There is often an opportunity for a both/and approach.
Social action. Protests. Social Movements. Social justice. When people who are suffering are being helped, I believe God is pleased and therefore, we should be too. At the same time, Christ-followers, whether we are participating in mass action, or being asked for our comment on it, or giving perspective to those in it, we must keep in mind that we will be held accountable for every word we speak, including the advice we give to encourage or discourage others from a course of action. We must test our motives and ask ourselves if we are demonstrating God’s love in all that we do. Am I being his hands and feet on this earth? Am I living out the gospel and being continually conformed into His image? Are my thoughts and actions pleasing to Him?