NOT responding in kind

I am determined to remain apolitical in this space. But the world is determined to break down my resolve these days. In particular I refer to a group of “peaceful protesters” who I saw this week yelling and throwing various items at a police riot squad. After wrestling with my ethics for a moment or two, I have decided to try to walk the line, fine though it may be.

I feel good about this decision because I will not make reference to the politics being promoted or attacked. I am genuinely concerned about my brethren who seem determined to pit themselves against their own brethren who are on “the other side” — as though we are not all on the same side. Whatever your politics, act like a Christian. ‘Nuff said.

My point with regard to the “peaceful protestors” is this: it is easy to lash out against people who you know for a certainty will not respond in kind. Our government is compelled time and time again to explain the level of response to such behavior — whether it be retreating, standing their ground, employing pepper spray or rubber bullets, or any other sort of nonlethal behavior. Potentially lethal response, of course, is completely out of the question. Police and other law enforcement officials will not do any significant harm to the “peaceful protesters” — and the “peaceful protesters” know it very well. They, of course, have no such limitations.

The twist of lime to this story came when the K-9 units were deployed. The “peaceful protesters” backed up pretty quickly when set upon by angry German shepherds. They were under tight leash, of course; no one was bitten. But there was little doubt what the dogs would do if their handlers were careless.

The word you are looking for is “cowardly.”

It’s a weird form of bullying, really — picking on someone who is incapable of responding. It is beneath contempt. And if you seek only the approval of other bullies, throwing rocks is a pretty good way of doing it. And it’s completely safe.

I thank God that I live in a country where this sort of thing is possible. If these people lived in China or North Korea or Saudi Arabia, their misbehavior would be met with a very different response. And its end would be as sudden as it was messy. This level of freedom is an incredible blessing; to use that freedom as a tool to empower selfish and brutal behavior is shameful.

Christians suffer immeasurably because of this phenomenon, and we always have. Because we refuse the tactics of the devil — deception, gossip, violence, and the like — we enter confrontation with the enemy at a considerable tactical disadvantage. To any rational and disinterested bystander, we come across as weak and ineffectual.

It takes faith to believe the meek will actually inherit the earth, as Jesus promised (Matthew 5:5). Maybe the biggest issue is our failure to understand the nature of the “earth” God is trying to give us. Of course, the natural impulse is to look for “earthly” shopping list items — money, prestige, success, friendships, and the like. But these have never been the true incentives for God’s people. Surely it makes more sense in the context of the spiritual kingdom that Jesus addresses in the Sermon on the Mount that “the earth” is a figure of speech denoting everything of consequence — which is to say, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). By denying ourselves, we open the door for God to shower “a greater grace” (James 4:6) — and to do so in measure too great to calculate. Just as a devoted husband might promise to give “the world” to his bride, so also God promises “the earth” to those whom He loves.

So we endure despicable treatment from those who do not know better. We allow them to win a battle we refuse to fight. And in so doing, we prove ourselves to be the victors in the only warfare that truly matters.