Why Violence And Looting Are Hypocritical Responses To Social Injustice

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Why do people protest social injustice by civil disobedience, such as looting and violence? Why are these hypocritical responses?

Social Injustice

Today there seems to be more protests in the streets about real or perceived social injustices than there were just ten years ago, and I think it’s good to protest social injustice when we see it, but when protesters turn violent, they are no longer protesters, but domestic terrorists. They cross that line when they are protesting a wrong by doing wrong. It’s oxy-moronic to try to fight social injustice with responses that far exceed the original crime or social injustice. When protesters from two opposing sides reach such levels that even police refuse to intervene (as has happened recently), we’ve got a big problem on our hands, and a problem that can potentially reach our neighborhood. Of course God is angry at those who refuse to care for the poor, favor the rich, and neglect the orphans and widows of society, but God does not call us to social disobedience to fix it, and these problems are not new to our day. Even in Daniel the Prophet’s day, governments and rulers have overlooked the poor and disenfranchised, just like King Nebuchadnezzar, whom Daniel desired would repent, saying, “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan 4:27). Ancient Israel was no exception to neglecting her own, but protesting with violence is not the answer…it never is!

Authority of God

Christ-followers are called to a higher calling by God than that of social disobedience or civil unrest. Yes, we should fight for social justice, and pray for God to bring revival to this nation and her leaders so that they can bring change by legal means, but we cannot ever take the law into our own hands, and believers should never break the law to protest something that’s wrong. I can see protesting things like racial prejudice or discrimination, but not by means of violence or looting, and especially the burning of public and private property. The Apostle Paul says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2).   God has sovereignly placed those in authority over us for our own good, so they are actually “God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:4). For believers, this means “one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience” (Rom 13:5), so from the top down, we are to “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:7).

Vengeance is God’s

When we try to take social matters into our own hands by using means that are not godly or legal, we are trying to usurp God’s authority and His rightful place on the throne. It is good that we “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom 12:9), but we should never “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom 12:17). When you see some social injustice but you can’t do anything about it, make certain you “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:19). To try and right a social injustice by breaking the law is to move from beyond protesting to hypocrisy. The very thing they’re protesting by means of violence and looting is a worse than the thing they were originally protesting. That’s why believers must trust God‘s sovereignty, knowing, “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12). Others do not have to give an account to us, but to God. Besides, it’s a fallen world. This world will be full of evil because the god of this world has blinded them (2nd Cor 4:3-3). They are still blind to the things of God and cannot know the things of God without the Spirit of God (2nd Cor 2:10-15), but even so, it doesn’t matter who it is who is protesting; when protesters break the law, they are only making matters worse. No one wins when lives, limb, and property are destroyed. This world’s state is another reason we are looking up for Jesus’ triumphant return to judge this world in righteousness and establish the Kingdom, centered in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-3). Only then will suffering, sorrow, injustice, violence, and even death end (Rev 21:4). Trying to enforce social justice by means of social disobedience is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.


I hope it’s clear that no believer has any right to break the law in order to protest a law or a social injustice. Two wrongs will never make one right…it will only make one wrong, and it’s not the way that heroes of the past have changed society. The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for social change, but condemned civil disobedience. He understood that change must come from within the human heart, so it must come by means of a peaceful resistance, and not by who has the largest mob and the most guns. If all we end up with are greater and greater protests over social issues, we’ll end up in anarchy, and only the strongest will survive. Only those with the largest mobs will win, and I don’t believe anyone wants a society like that. Think about this: Water is one of the softest, most pliable substances on earth, yet in years, “water wears away stone” (Job 14: 19), so responses of love and kindness and gentleness can move mountains, but it takes time. Whatever we can’t change, God can, but whatever we can, by all means, we must try, but only let it be by peaceful means, or as the Apostle Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18) . It may seem that water dripping on hard stone could not make an impression, yet when water drips on stone continuously for many years, it can literally wear a hole in the stone, so even if hearts are like stone, words of grace can soften the stony heart, especially knowing that “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:1).

Something else that might interest you: Is Increasing Violence A Sign of the End Times?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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