“There is a big difference between demonstrating and protesting.”
My wife and I were discussing the January 6th committee hearings the other day when she made the statement above. It is one of those moments when I have to stop and say, “That’s it. Wow!”
I have been seeking the Lord’s guidance as to what my next article should be about and this statement nailed it. Later, I mentioned her comment to someone and he told me about the book in the picture above taken from Amazon Books. I’m sure neither John P. Kotter nor Amazon will object to a little free advertising. I bought the book, but have not had the opportunity to read it.
We live in a world of angst and nihilism. These two terms go together. Wikipedia.org defines each this way:
Angst is fear or anxiety (anguish is its Latinate equivalent, and the words anxious and anxiety are of similar origin). The dictionary definition of angst is a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity.[i]
Nihilism is a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy, that rejects generally accepted or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, or meaning. Different nihilist positions hold variously that human values are baseless, that life is meaningless, that knowledge is impossible, or that some set of entities do not exist or are meaningless or pointless.
Scholars of nihilism may regard it as merely a label that has been applied to various separate philosophies, or as a distinct historical concept arising out of nominalism, skepticism, and philosophical pessimism, as well as possibly out of Christianity itself. Contemporary understanding of the idea stems largely from the Nietzschean 'crisis of nihilism', from which derive the two central concepts: the destruction of higher values and the opposition to the affirmation of life.[ii]
These two terms in the context of American society today accurately depict what is driving the news and social media. We can hardly carry on a conversation without one or both being expressed in one context or another. These two are expressed in mass shootings, public protests, the halls of Congress, and around the kitchen table.
I recall as a child being taught what to do in the event there is a nuclear war. Bomb shelters were being constructed in neighborhoods across the United States. The fear this engendered cannot be compared to what children are being subjected to on a daily basis today.
In 1976, Francis Schaeffer published his book, How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Country-music singer, Loretta Lynn, published a song two years later, “We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.” She was singing about a country girl making it big in Hollywood. We might change the context to how far we have come since the scare of imminent annihilation in the 50s and ’60s. A love-sick Skeeter Davis sang a different tune, “The End of the World.” The lyrics:
Why does the sun go on shining?
Why does the sea rush to shore?
Don't they know it's the end of the world
Cause you don't love me anymore?
Regardless of one’s present circumstances, both tunes might be playing on the jukebox at the local tavern today. Except now, with a few beers under the belt, someone might begin to think about taking matters into their own hands. Isn’t that the ultimate action existentialism leads to?
But there is a better way to look at the world. It is through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, we have the incarnate Son of God who lived in a time of great unrest. He lived a sinless life as the Son of man and died for the sins of the whole world.
Since the fall, God has been revealing Himself in the lives of His people, through the prophets, and in demonstrations of His power and presence in this chaotic world under the sun. He then revealed Himself as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us to show us the way. In Him there is hope. He is our hope.
Speaking to Gentiles, the apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands — remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.[iii]
All of the strife between races, nations, and peoples could be ended if the Prince of peace reigned in the hearts of mankind. But this requires accepting the truth of what Paul wrote, the good news of Jesus Christ. He wrote in another place:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.[iv]
Both statements above were written when Paul was under house arrest in Rome, falsely accused by his own people. Still, the gospel of Jesus Christ was heard throughout Rome, even to the pretorian guard of the household of Caesar. Paul wrote:
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.[v]
What we have here is not a protestation, but a demonstration. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not to be a protest but to demonstrate a life of hope and joy and expectation. It is not expressing angst. It is not nihilistic. It is the wisdom of God expressed by those who accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, by their life, and by the testimony of “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”[vi]
The Greek term for gentle, often translated as meek, is praus. I love this term and its cognate, prautes. My definition of prautes is:
An outward gentleness
Based upon an inner strength
That comes from having a right relationship with God
And being at peace with what He is doing in my life.
I seek to live by what I preach to others. Anytime I become anxious or start to think that circumstances are hopeless, I recall this definition.
This is what the world needs. As believers we need to learn to have the attitude of Christ:
If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.[vii]
This is the message that needs to be sounded forth from the pulpits in every church every week. In this, we have power in the world. It is not the power of force or protest. It is the power of influence. We must weigh every word we say and every attitude we convey. We must keep ourselves in tune with Christ and not the world. Only in this way will the body of Christ be an instrument in God’s hands to bring light, peace, and joy to a world lost in angst and hopelessness.
[iii] Eph 2:11-16.
[iv] Phil 4:6-9.
[v] Phil 1:12-20.
[vi] 1 Pe 3:3.
[vii] Phil 2:1-8.