Don't you think we should DO something?

Trinity Pres Church copy

An expert in sociology recently assessed the surge in student protests (and even social media engagement in support of protests) as a marker of our innate human instinct to “do something” about a perceived problem. What is different now is our access to information about so many problems in so many places. Modern technology and media now grant the average person access to literally a world of hurt. And the more informed a person may be about all that may be wrong out there, the less they may feel they are doing.

They feel the urge to “do something.”  But in a strange way, a student protest or social media post (or re-post) may not actually be about a cause, a tragedy, or a crisis. It may be much more about guilt and a selfish impulse to relieve that tension.

One of the things that I love about trusting in Jesus and following Him is the perspective He offers, the peace He really gives, and the goodness of knowing my place. Personally, I am not a disengaged person! I am sure that on every personality metric I’ve ever taken I land on the action-oriented end of the spectrum. I love to reflect, to read, to think, to write, and to dialogue, but all of that time spent in preparation is in order to “do something.”  My hope in Christ is that I will be able to do something that matters and in a way that is not selfish.

Contemporary sensibilities seem to focus on feelings. Have you noticed that in typical footage of a protest, there is a lot of emotion? There is passion at least; rage at best, but the one thing not allowed is peace or calm. “Something is seriously wrong here, and by God, we need to do something about it…” and you can fill in the blank of whatever the particular cause is this time. Someone somewhere is being mistreated and agitation is the needed response.

Contemporary morals seem very ready to assign blame and size up everyone in a binary win-or-lose, hero-or-villain manner. The protesters are the heroes. Those they oppose are the villains. And the watching crowd is precariously on the bubble and they (you and I?) need to do something about this problem — chiefly, to join their protest.

And contemporary hopes are all grounded in collective action, and usually at the highest levels of governance or corporate power. A very prominent motif is David vs. Goliath. The protesters are courageous to “stand up to” the “big corporation” or to “the Man” (a.k.a. whatever powers are in place that need to be displaced or replaced). The power at the pinnacle, whoever is “at the top” IS the linchpin in the problem, and they won’t be moved except by the collective masses rising up.

How is Jesus different? First, in terms of focus, He calls us to focus upon Him, and not the world. He calls us to know Him, trust, love and obey Him, and live actively working in His mission by faith. Every day, even as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” we are immediately set upon the path of doing something every day toward eternal goodness and every day to repent of self-interest — of all that is vain or cruel. So instead of rage or fury, there is now a new (and imminently) more powerful motivation — joyful love. Christians should be people of passion! I would quickly agree that one of the most hypocritical examples that professing believers can set is to be bored and boring. So even in the face of worldly tribulation (which means someone, somewhere, is being mistreated), Jesus promises peace.

Second, regarding heroes and villains, Jesus sizes all of us up as sinners — failures really, at the most essential assignments of loving God and loving neighbor. Yet, He offers all of us (even the worst of us) the hope of redemption! The Apostle Paul was a persecuting murderer of Christians. He became, by His redeeming power, Jesus’ representative of love and the builder of other believers! Contemporary moral judgments offer almost no hope of recovery. Jesus, as the One raised out of death itself, offers the most indescribable promise of not just forgiveness, but of transformation.

And lastly, I do not dispute that often, people in places of great power can succumb to great corruption. But my greatest achievements will never be in displacing or replacing people of great power with ME or my allies. Jesus says that our greatest achievements will be in places unseen by human eyes — before His Father’s throne, in places of obscurity, pain, poverty, sadness and death. If we would like to do something of eternal significance, Jesus tells us plainly that it is in the place of the greatest humility, service and love. It will not be covered by the media with 100,000,000 views.

If your conscience is provoked about anything, please voice your concerns and go protest. You are a free person in a free world. But if we protest vehemently and we don’t repent and trust Jesus for His grace against our villainy, then we will just be more hypocrites showing up in a crowd to blame others for sins we ourselves have committed.

Jesus said simply, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 14:27, 16:33)