I have read so much about the current riots and unrest in this country; but nothing comes close to the message I’d like to summarize and share today. It comes from a sermon that absolutely cut through the rhetoric to examine what God’s word says about what’s going on. John 17:17 says that the Bible is our resource for truth in any circumstance.
So, what does the word of God say about who is to blame for the “Black Lives Matter” riots?
For starters, let’s look at Isaiah 1:4 -5. God is confronting the nation of Israel through the prophet Isaiah, warning that he is about to bring judgement upon them:
“Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted”.
Israel had turned its back on God. They were a people given to corruption through and through. (v. 5). They couldn’t see right from wrong, and they were twisting morality on its head. The indictment is clear, if you read a few chapters down to Isaiah 5:20:
“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.”
Isn’t this what we are seeing today?
We demand justice when a man’s life is taken, then applaud as lawless mobs attack and kill more.
We can’t attend church, but we can burn it
We can’t press charges against the rioters, but we can defund the police trying to protect the general public.
How did we get here, with everything so upside down?
The answer is in Romans 3:10-18, which is a summary of human nature:
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
This passage describes the natural state of mankind without Christ. Four times it repeats that no one is righteous, emphasizing that all have turned away, and that no one does good, not even one. Many other scriptures speak of our sin nature, apart from God (Romans 8:3, Colossians 3:5, Romans 6:6, Ephesians 2:1).
Is there goodness in man? Sure, there’s some, there is relative goodness. Not everyone is as bad as they can possibly be, but no one is holy, which is God’s standard (1 Peter 1:16). So, even with our best thoughts and deeds, we still need Christ’s imputed righteousness (2 Cor. 5:22).
Left without God, the collective disposition of humanity is that of a darkened mind, one that does not understand or seek God (v. 11). It is a depravity that speaks lies, (for their father is the father of lies – John 8:44), cursing and bitterness. Further, mankind is described as murderous (v.15). Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery. Look over history at the atrocities of WWII, to those who willingly killed millions of Jews, piled up in massive open graves.
Lest we think ourselves to be so far removed from the monstrosities of fallen man, remember that Jesus went so far as to say that if you hate your brother or sister, you have already murdered him in your heart. (1 John 3:15)
A concluding key verse is found in verse 18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes”.
If you make a law that allows people to kill, they kill. If you allow riot, they will riot. Remove the restrains, and we will see the product of this kind of character.
Proverbs 16:6 says, “By the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil”
Where there is no sense of guilt or conscience, then humans are free to be what they are naturally. Think about it. If you had no restraint, and you knew you could get away with absolutely anything, even into eternity, wouldn’t you consider it – even for a moment?
To those who blatantly reject God, his response is even more sobering:
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done”. (Romans 1:28)
Friends, what I believe we are seeing is the product of God giving man over to his own devices – a depraved mind begets bad decisions, evil thoughts, bad motives, twisted thinking. It results in destruction, mayhem, and murder.
Is there reason for reform? I believe there is. I don’t deny that hatred and racism exist. This too, is a result of the sinful nature of man. Yet, does the Bible condone violent protest as a result of what may have happened to someone in their past? Do we inflict evil for evil? Do we channel blame for injustice upon what happens outside of us?
Take a look at Mark: 7:14, “There is nothing outside the man that can defile him”. The police cannot justify any sin (or murder in this case) any more that the Black Lives Matter movement can justify the destruction and murder upon their fellow man. The problem is not something outside that gets inside, it is what is inside that goes out. Something is wrong with our hearts.
Since we are so fallen, how does God ever expect us to survive? How does he expect us to live out this life with any meaning, fulfillment, or joy?
He has provided four restrains, put in place for our well-being as individuals, and as a society. They are:
1. The Conscience – The evidence of God’s gift of conscience is that we experience guilt when we know we have thought or done wrong. It’s part of being human. A society that doesn’t seem to have a conscience can override it in several ways. They can misinform the conscience with rhetoric. If it is heard enough times over generations, the lies are believed. That’s what happens with racism, sexual perversion, rioting, crooked politicians, and terrorism, to name a few. It’s what’s happening in our colleges and media right now. The conscience can also be seared when the individual or society seeks to eliminate guilt. (1 Tim. 4:2). You may have heard this being done for years – no need for guilt if someone is just being their “authentic self”, right? We are told to “find your own truth”, because absolute truth does not exist, much less the truth found in the Bible. (Isaiah 53:6).
2. The Family – This message heard describes the family as “the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners who become a benefit to society, to enjoy and be grateful for God’s gifts”. I think that’s spot on. Want to trash a society? Sear the conscience? Go after the family. Topple the relationships between men and women. Attack marriage. Let your children run without discipline.
3. The Government – The prime role of the government is to maintain order to the welfare of the citizens of the country to which it presides. No government is perfect, but as believers and law-abiding citizens we are to abide by the government to the extent that it does not defy God’s law. When good government works, it supports the principles of liberty, justice, respect, and equal opportunity. It is a combination of all of these, with a functional system of checks and balances.
4. The Church – “You are the salt of the Earth, but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matt. 5:13).
Believers, we are the preserving factor of the decay we see in the world. We are what slows the decay. If we have lost our ability to preserve, it is because we have lost our purity. Consider the church you attend. Is the focus on the preaching of repentance of sin and the gospel of Christ? Is there any compromise to deflect and dilute with frivolous man-centered gain rather than to holiness? Is there grief for the lost, or an implied identity with this world instead?
So, who is to blame for the riots? Sinners. All of us. The condition of the human heart. The natural bent of sin. Families who fail to raise virtuous kids, weak government leaders that fail to protect the weak and applaud the wicked. False teachers that water down the gospel.
The only remedy from an eternal, biblical perspective? I believe it is to restore the law of God so the conscience can be informed. Restore the family so we can raise strong, godly men and women to lead the next generation. Restore the government to its role of true justice. Restore the church to the preaching of the gospel, stripping away the false notion of man-based glory to proclaim repentance and salvation in Christ alone.
Prophecy tells us that eventually this world will only grow further and further into confusion and rebellion…but it also tells us that in the end, Christ will return to restore his own from this world. May he use this current national crisis for his purpose.
*Taken “Grace To You” podcast, June 7, 2020 – “Who is to blame for the Riots?”
John MacArthur, Grace Community Church