Hello Brothers & Sisters in Christ!
Please know that, during these turbulent times in our society, you are all on my heart and in my prayers as we strive together to glorify God and “shine like stars in the universe” (Phil 2:15). I am so humbled, blessed, and encouraged to be part of a community of faith like the Athens Church of Christ. It has been uplifting in recent days to have experienced such an overflow of love and determination to support, understand, trust, and remain unified with one another, at a time when the world continues to produce strife and division.
I am writing to you today to address an issue about which I have been approached by several disciples over the last 24 hours. As many of you know, there is a protest scheduled to occur in downtown Athens tomorrow to promote social justice and racial equality. While I will admit that much of what I’ve heard is based on secondhand information and hearsay, I did just want to make a few comments.
First, in my opinion there is nothing wrong with a disciple choosing to attend a peaceful social/political protest. The highest legal authority in our country is the United States Constitution, and according to its wording we have the right to peaceful assembly. You are not being rebellious or disrespectful towards our authorities (Romans 13), so long as you protest peacefully and in a way that does not cause harm to any person or another’s property.
Second, if you do elect to attend this or any other similar event, remember: righteousness above all! No matter what, “conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). God calls us to stand up for the oppressed and for justice. He will surely not put us in a situation where we must abandon righteousness to attain it!
Third, my understanding from what I have heard is that the group organizing this event is reputable and desires a peaceful protest. However, I have also heard talk of outside agitators descending on the event with the intent to disrupt the peace and entice ungodly behavior. I have not taken the time to investigate and confirm this, but I have heard reports of this sort of thing happening in other cities. I say this to simply encourage you to be wise and careful. If you elect to go, know your “exit strategy” ahead of time should the event begin to take a negative turn.
Finally, let us not judge one another’s decisions in this matter. Social justice and racial equality are godly, biblical objectives. All disciples must denounce injustice and racism! However, the means by which we do so and pursue these goals often fall into the category of “man-made methods.”
Disciples are entitled to differing opinions, and it is possible to be very devoted—even actively so—to the cause of social justice and eradicating racism in our society without electing to attend a protest or making statements on social media. If a disciple elects to participate and does so peacefully and in a Christ-like fashion, then that is their choice, and others should respect it. If a disciple elects not to participate, then that too is their choice and they should not be labeled as “not caring” about the issue because they have elected not to go. Let us trust one another’s hearts and not be too fast to pass judgement on one another’s actions!
I love you all! May God bless us and the church and may we experience more and more the spiritual reality that we are a new humanity and one in Christ! And may this peace impact the world around us!
Love in Christ,