Tomorrow, all over this country, thousands upon thousands of (primarily) young people will be marching in protest about this nation’s failure to enact stricter gun control laws. They will be primarily young because the older one gets the more one is committed to security and lack of conflict, and less willing to sacrifice that for even the most noble causes This was essentially true of the civil rights movement, though with notable exceptions. It was John Lewis and the SNCC, made up initially of black university students that took the risk, and challenged the racism of the deep south.

But, … did you realize that to be a follower of Christ, and by virtue of one’s baptism into new life, also makes every true follower of Christ to become part of the major protest of human history? Every time one prays: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” one is praying a protest prayer against the kingdom of darkness, the kingdoms of this world, and is petitioning God to establish his own new creation, this age-to-come, his kingdom righteousness in the midst of the power structures of this age, this creation in rebellion against its Creator, against all that is of the darkness, and greed, and inhumanity, and unrighteousness that is so omni-present?

And, do you realize that on this coming Palm Sunday, the church is ostensibly celebrating the dramatic last week of Jesus’ own protest that would bring him into confrontation with the religious and political principalities and powers of Jerusalem and the Empire? The cross was the consummation of his protest, and is so profound in its meaning that we can never fully comprehend what that protest cost him. And yet it was by his blood that he reconciled us to God.

Jesus came, from the very start, announcing the staggering good news of the kingdom of God, of the invasion of God’s age to come right into the midst of this age. And his invitation was never without risks and costs. “Unless a man forsakes all that he has, he is not worthy to be my disciples.” “Unto you is given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in his name, but also to suffer for his sake.” His invitation to become his follower always comes with the command to repent, to enter into a whole new frame of reference. Our primary allegiance is never to the power structures of this age. We can seek to be fruitful citizens in the land of our sojourn, but we are always aliens and exiles since our primary allegiance is always to the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. In this present scene, Christ’s followers can never own the mantra of ‘America first.’

Having said that, we have to confess that those of us who are his church had so tragically domesticated his calling into his Age to Come, his New Creation. We have spiritualized it and made it safe—but the calling to follow Christ is never safe, or tame, or without consequences which may even include being killed.

The thousands of young people protesting tomorrow may not be Christian … but they are protesting a moral failure of a society in which violent gun deaths have claimed more lives than those caused by our wars. Their cause is just, just as the cause of the young people who protested racial injustice those years ago. That movement had its foundation inside the black Christian church, and its major prophetic voice would assert from the Birmingham jail, that he “appealed to a higher law” than the unrighteous laws of his society. Jesus inaugurated a protest movement against hunger, homelessness, illness, injustice, ethnic prejudice … and all those violations of the peace of God. It is easy to protest when it is popular to do so, and when there are no consequences. But Jesus’ protest movement always includes a cross, a renouncing of the expressions of darkness in those places of our sojourn.

Stay tuned …

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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6 Responses to BLOG 3/23/18. ME? A PROTESTER?

  1. Craig Wertz says:

    And you continue to make me uncomfortable in my worship of stability and calm in my life. Thank you I guess.

  2. Jermaine Ladd says:

    Wow! I agree with everything you wrote. This is precisely why I pray the Lord’s Prayer everyday. Thank you for articulating this protest prayer! AMEN!

  3. Libba Carpenter Wells says:

    Bob, I’m a 70-year-old Christian who marched in Raleigh. I was touched that so many parents were there with their children—little bundled up babies to their kids in high school. It was a very peaceful march.

    • rthenderson says:

      Yes! We who are the followers of Christ are always protesters, always instruments of righteousness, and as the late Frances Schaeffer noted: “co-belligerents those who are instruments of of righteousness and peace.

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