Courtesy of Pepsi
Pepsi isn’t my taste. And their latest ad featuring Kendall Jenner was clearly not too the taste or appetite of most people. I don’t think I’ve heard or seen one positive thing about this latest campaign.
And while we could talk about how Kendall clearly doesn’t know how to hold a pop can, what I want to talk about is what Pepsi and Ms. Jenner thought that they could co-opt and re-purpose: the protest.
Religion and politics have a very dark and mixed history. There were times the two were mixed, in bed together, serving each other’s purposes. There were times that they couldn’t have been more separate. I’m not speaking of just North American churches, but churches across the world. Politics and religion are oil and water.
But does that mean that Christians shouldn’t get involved in politics? Should we not let the governing bodies know what we think, what we want done? Or, like in the Pepsi/Jenner commercial, should we protest? And if the answer is yes, how should Christians protest?
I am not going to make a list of issues that we should storm government buildings or other institutions over. One of my friends wisely said,
“In general I would hope that Christians would engage in society and make positive contributions to some of the insanely complex issues of society. On another note, there were many protests (I was asked to participate in) that I am thankful that I didn’t participate in.” – Rodney Corcoran
The issues that Christians find themselves protesting for or against are too complicated to discuss at length here. So what I am going to seek to answer is how, if and when, Christians should protest, by following the example of Paul, John the Baptist, and Jesus.
Befriend Like Paul
The book of Acts is largely about two characters; Peter the disciple of Jesus, and Paul the Apostle. The end of the book is largely about Paul and his slow move towards Rome, and his death. Acts 25 and 26 report what happens to Paul while he is being held prisoner in a town called Caesarea.
Paul appeals his imprisonment, citing that as a Roman citizen he deserves to a trial, and is allowed to speak his case before two ruling powers, Festus and King Agrippa. Festus was high ranking official, governing in Judea, while King Agrippa, the great-grandson of Herod the Great, was ruling over all of Israel.
Paul goes into a long monologue about what had happened to him, his conversion story, and what has brought him to this place.
At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” – Acts 26:24-27 NIV
That line of Paul’s, right at the end, “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” strikes me as very interesting. To know someone’s religious beliefs, to know what system of ideas informs and dictates their lives is to know something deeply personal. I can’t speak as to how Paul knew what Agrippa believed, but I know that the best way to figure out what someone believes is to ask them. Or take it a step further, become their friend.
The way that I became friends with my best friends was over long and aggressive conversations about the Bible. We would sit in our dorm rooms late at night and discuss theological concepts and problems until we couldn’t take it anymore and needed sleep. As we got to know each other, as the relationship was build beyond what we believed right then, something beautiful happened. We started listening to each other. We moved from listening to argue our point back, to hearing what was said and meditating on it.
When it comes to politics and protesting, we need to take a page from Paul’s play book. We need to befriend politics.
I’m not saying we need to harass and dominate their time with our preaching and brow beating over a particular topic. I’m saying get to know them. Have a conversation about your concerns. Have a conversation about the things you think they are doing well. Have a conversation about something you have in common.
The great thing about Canadian politics is that our politicians are supposed to represent us. They are being the mouthpieces for us to the governing bodies. They want to know what you think. They want to hear what matters to you. They want to make sure that your concerns are addressed. So, do that.
Again, not in a brow beating, preaching, condemning sort of way. No one wants to listen to a screamer or a chronic complainer. But, a friend will always make time for a friend. Get to know your local politicians. Follow them on social media. Email or call them when you have questions.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24
Preach Like John
“The Decollation of John the Baptist” painted by Massimo Stanzione, 1634
John the Baptist was a strange man. He lived in the desert, and wore camel skins for clothing. His diet was a strange concoction of honey and locusts, strange whether you think those were the bugs or the flower. He was the one that baptised Jesus in the Jordan River, when the dove came down, heaven opened, and God said that He was pleased with Jesus, His son. John the Baptist was the one that proclaimed about Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
John’s preaching and proclaiming had gotten him into hot water, landing him in the prison of Herod the Tetrarch, also known as Herod Antipas. John had preached openly regarding Herod and his actions. Herod did not like this and had him imprisoned. But what John did while he was there is most astounding.
“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.” – Matthew 14:3-5
Even in the face of death, John didn’t stop singing the same tune. He kept on preaching the same thing over and over again. He took issue with a man knowing his brother’s wife (knowing in the biblical sense). It was a violation of God’s law. So John to King Herod that he needed to stop.
This is what is astounding. Death did not deter John from the truth. Power and authority did not deter John from the truth. Imprisonment did not deter John from the truth. No matter what happened, John was prepared to told to God’s truth and proclaim it until his dying day. And he did just that. John was of a certain conviction and he would not relent.
Again, I’m not telling you what you should or shouldn’t protest. But if you are going to, take a page from John’s playbook; Preach.
Nothing in the Scriptures I shared, or any other verse you can drum up will ever indicate that John the Baptist did anything else but preach. He was never violent. He didn’t bomb Herod’s castle to make a point. He didn’t start Jerusalem on fire. He didn’t throw eggs. He did nothing to show aggression towards anyone or anything thing. All John did was preach.
He used his words, not violent action. He spoke the truth, not to condemn the person, but the action. And John the Baptist continued to do that for as long as he could, as long as it took, until things changed.
I’m not saying that we will need to preach for or against something until it kills us; but I’m not discounting it either.
Love Like Jesus
While learning and living like Paul and John the Baptist is all well and good, we are called to live like Jesus. Above all other, we are called to display His character, His likeness into our world.
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
Easter is right around the corner of this being written, so the Cruxificion and Resurrection have been on my mind. When I think about Jesus hanging on that cross, I cannot get passed the overwhelming love He must have to endure all that for me. For you. For all of humanity, including those that didn’t agree with Him.
Not everyone agreed with Jesus on his political ideas, and He didn’t agree with everyone on theirs. But Jesus’ response has like everyone else’s. While the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders wanted to see this outsider, this threat to their way of doing things destroyed, Jesus wanted something else.
He wanted to love them. And how much? So much that in the moments of their gruesome murder of Jesus, He is worried about their sin, praying that God would forgive them.
Those three words are dripping with love. How else would you sincerely pray for your murders, your executioners, your kinsmen, your fellow believers in God, without loving them?
In politics, we don’t always get our way. Sometimes laws get passed that we don’t agree with. Sometimes fellow Christians are on the “wrong” side on an issue. Like Rodney Corcoran, the issue of this world are insanely complex.
So, whatever the outcome the best thing that we can do is what Jesus. When there are things that go on in the political realms that we do not agree with, we need to take a page out of Jesus’ playbook; Love them.
Despite all the things that the Jews did to Jesus, despite how very anti-Christ their actions were, Jesus still hung on the cross for them. He still showed them undying and unconditional love.
His love didn’t stop when they thought a different way than He did. His love didn’t stop when they acted in a way that He did not like. His love didn’t stop when the laws and commands that they enforced and put into action that were contrary to everything that He was teaching.
Jesus always loved.
Not a “I’ll smile at you when I see you, because I have to” love. Not a “I’ll say I love you because you know I’m a Christian” love. But a genuine, sacrificial love that does not stop when there isn’t agreement on a political issue.
That is what Christians are called to do, not exclusively to politicians or policy makers, but not excluding them either. Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48
I don’t know what hot political topic drives you to protest, whether it is marching in the streets, or writing a long Facebook status. But I hope that, whatever the issue, you and I as fellow Christians can act as our fellow believers, and as our Lord and Savior have.
Befriend those politicians and those in power like Paul.
Preach, without violence, relentlessly like John the Baptist.
Love, always, like Jesus.