Pastoral Perspectives

A Biblical Response to Protest

My last perspective was a reflection of the crisis in Hong Kong and today is my personal response to people I know who are sentimental to the unrest in Hong Kong. I’ve no answers to such a crisis even though the Christian communities in Hong Kong is trying to sort out a theology of protest. While the song Sing Hallelujah to the Lord has become a popular anthem of the Hong Kong protests against the extradition bill, its association with Christianity means that Christians can easily become the scape-goat as seen by how the Chinese government turned some of the protest scenes into a propaganda campaign against Christianity in Hong Kong (see

For the Christian, it is important to discern whether protesting is solely a Western value or is there also some biblical justification. As much as there is a place for God’s people to protest against wickedness, the Bible is clear that Christians are never to engage in riotous behaviour, violence and damaging property. For example, the Bible condemns those who formed “a mob, set all the city in an uproar…” as “evil men” (Acts 17:5).

Since Jesus taught us not to attack our enemies but to pray for them and to turn the other cheek, then surely Christians have no place in protests that end up with looting, disrupting the public order and obstructing traffic such that ambulances and fire trucks are prevented from reaching the victims whose lives depend on a timely response. Even if one decides to identify with the cause of the demonstrators, we should be mindful to do so in a peaceable manner and for a just cause.

Given that the recent demonstrations have taken on a more belligerent tone, the Christians in Hong Kong need to do some soul searching. Should they continue to join the crowd or should they take a step back and turn to prayer instead? It also does not help that with the long drawn protests and extensive media coverage, many seemed to have become numb to the demonstrations. Where once a protest was enough to capture the attention of the nation, now most merely glance at the screen and then return to their normal routine.

It is important for Christians to understand that we have dual citizenship. We are citizens living here and under an earthly government, but we are also embody here and now our “heavenly” citizenship. Navigating this dual citizenship is tricky, and Christians will not always agree on exactly how it should be done. But I take it as non-negotiable that the Christian’s first allegiance is to God and God’s kingdom.

Indeed, God did not “save” us not so that we can escape from this fallen world but so that we can help transform it. The Westminster Catechism starts us off with this question: “What is the chief end of humankind?” and it answers, “To glorify God and enjoy God forever.”  We need to understand that the gospel changes people — changes their hearts and minds. And it’s hearts and minds that change a culture.

 From Paul’s letters, we learn that even though he was a Roman citizen, he was very mindful that his true citizenship lies in heaven (Philippians 3:20) The kingdom Christians are about is to be the one where we pray to God “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Our number one priority is to be instruments of manifesting God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven,” and that is a full-time calling that requires much wisdom since it is to transcend political parties and politics.

In my opinion, the key question will always be, “Against what things should Christians offer a protest?”  Here we can learn from our Protestant forefathers what they were passionately contending for. The term “Protestant,” of course, comes from the Latin protestari, which simply means to “declare publicly, testify, protest.” 

That original protest was best captured in the five “solas” that came out of the Reformation:

  1. Sola Scriptura: We protest against any authority that sets itself up as higher than the word of God revealed in the Bible.
  2. Sola Fide:  We protest against the idea that there is any other instrument apart from faith by which we are declared righteous before God.
  3. Sola Gratia: We protest against the idea that our own good works are the meritorious basis for God bestowing his favour upon us.
  4. Solus Christus:  We protest against any other “god” who sets itself up as a more sufficient redeemer/saviour than the Lord Jesus Christ.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria: We protest against any idea that prevents God from receiving all glory for our salvation (or for any other thing).

Needless to say, protesting these five things won’t get much media coverage.  But, regardless of whatever else we might protest, we cannot fail to protest these five things lest we lose the heart and soul of the Christian faith. Indeed, if you identify yourself as a Protestant today, you are effectively a “protestor”.

Whatever else we may be passionate about, let us learn to put the Gospel to work for good in our current social, cultural, and political context. Sow it deeply into the soil of our society and culture and pray that our witness will serve as a compelling preview of God’s coming kingdom. Let us never tire in our efforts, praying that God would give us humility and boldness even as we go forth to be peacemakers, carrying out this ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident Missionary to SQ)

October 13, 2019