As protests and riots raged across the country and around the globe, many Christians have pondered how God’s people should respond. In many ways, this discussion dominates the church today, but not all of the proposed solutions line up biblically.
Some have offered specific strategies to show compassion and make a difference while the culture collapses around us. For example, many in the church have suggested that God’s people need to take an active role in changing the laws of the land, and putting new people into positions of power. I won’t deny that it is a tremendous blessing to have a voice in our political process, and that God’s people are responsible to support biblical standards of morality in society. But at the same time, we must recognize that there is no way to legislate true righteousness, and no human leader can hold back the tide of man’s corruption.
The Bible is clear about the state of the unrepentant soul. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul reminds his readers of how they lived prior to Christ: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3). Elsewhere he says, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7).
We can change the laws or add new ones, but sinners fundamentally cannot keep the law—changing policies can’t change the heart of man. The same is true when it comes to our leaders and elected officials. We can swap different sinners into positions of power, but we shouldn’t expect drastically different results. God’s people can’t put their hope in human leaders—as we’ve already seen, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10–12).
Other believers have suggested partnering with a social-justice movement like Black Lives Matter. And while everyone should agree that black lives do matter because they are made in the image of God, the movement itself is much more than that simple slogan. In their own documents, they eagerly affirm homosexuality and transgenderism. They argue for the dissolution of the family. They’re Marxist, atheistic, and anti-authority.
Put simply, there’s no partnership between a radical movement like that and the people of God that doesn’t defy the clear commandment of 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Paul goes on to illustrate the futility and foolishness of believers forging unions with the very corruption from which God has saved them. Quoting from Isaiah, he says, “‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord” (v. 17).
Still others will argue that, even if a specific partnership like that isn’t an option, believers still ought to join the protests. That Christians need to speak out against injustice.
But remember what Paul explained in Romans 13—that we are to be subject to the governing authorities, because God Himself established them. Peter gives us similar instructions. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13–14). Why? “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (v. 15). How we respond to authority—whether just or unjust—has repercussions for our testimony. Our submission can actually silence those who oppose the gospel and are looking for reasons to criticize believers.
He continues on the theme of submission in verse 20, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” Peter wants us to submit and suffer for the sake of righteousness—rather than suffering the consequences of our sin. But notice that he treats suffering—one way or the other—as inevitable. In fact, he says, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (v. 21). Just as Christ submitted to unjust suffering and abuse, we should likewise expect to suffer. Peter even says, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Peter 4:12–13).
Suffering is the greatest tool in the life of the believer. It’s how the quality of our faith is tested and proven. It’s how we learn to rely on God’s strength instead of our own. It’s how the Lord displays His sufficiency and provision to the watching world. God has great purposes in our suffering. And as Peter reminds us, it’s temporary. “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). God is not unaware of or unmoved by our suffering—on the contrary, He’s working through it to sanctify us and grow us in the likeness of His Son.
Having said that, Scripture is not blind to the injustices of this world. The book of Ecclesiastes gives us a wise and helpful perspective on the nature of this world and the place of God’s people in it. Regarding the prevalence of injustice, Solomon writes, “If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them” (Ecclesiastes 5:8). It’s presumed that human beings can’t be trusted. The whole reason for structured hierarchies is to make people accountable and mitigate the inequity and oppression that will inevitably occur.
We understand that life in this world will not be fair. “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). We can’t guarantee equitable outcomes for everyone. But we know there is no advantage for those who do evil. “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God” (8:12–13). The wicked may benefit in the short term, but they cannot avoid death and judgment. “Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. I said to myself, ‘God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,’ for a time for every matter and for every deed is there” (3:16–17).
God’s people don’t turn a blind eye to injustice or the chaos of unchecked sin. But neither do we take its punishment into our own hands. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17–19). God is the Judge—we should not attempt to do His work for Him.
We need to console ourselves with the fact that we won’t always know what God is accomplishing through suffering and trials. We have no choice but to trust in His sovereign timing. As Solomon reminds us, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So how, then, do we live amidst the chaos and corruption of sin?
Solomon continues, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God” (vv. 12–13). We need to recognize this life for the gift it is. Again, “I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?” (v. 22). We don’t know what’s ahead for this world—how much worse it might get before the Lord returns. But in the short time we have, we don’t need to be part of the disruption and rebellion. Our lives “are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). We should be happy and enjoy the gift we’ve been given.
That’s not to say we should live self-involved lives in the constant pursuit of pleasure. Rather, it means that we take full advantage of the blessings God has bestowed on us. God wants us to make the most of the life He has given us.
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:7–10)
In this fallen, corrupt, chaotic world, if you have any wisdom at all, take everything God has given you. Enjoy your work. Enjoy your marriage. Enjoy the fellowship of the church and the work of the gospel. Enjoy your life, and be happy.
It is not our calling to fix this world. God will deal with the corruption and chaos of sin in His own timing. In the words of Solomon, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).
(Adapted from Chaos Corruption and the Christian Response)