What Is the Bible’s View?
Which Ones Should You Make?
MANY people are greatly disturbed about injustice, fraud and oppression. They want a change and believe that it is right to bring this about even by force if necessary. At the same time they may feel that they themselves should be accepted by others just as they are, with no interference with their rights. Is their thinking in harmony with the Bible?
A devoted servant of God does not condone wrongs. His heart goes out to people who are treated unfairly. In this respect he imitates Jesus Christ. The Bible says of Jesus: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) He also demonstrated his compassion by doing what he could to help such persons spiritually.
Of course, the Christian keenly desires a change in the present system, to see an end to human suffering. It is distressing to have to witness heartless crime, war and acts of fraud and oppression. Regarding the man Lot, we read: “That righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among [the people of Sodom] was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.”—2 Pet. 2:8.
Lot, however, did not allow their wickedness to cause him to retaliate in kind. He did not seek to effect a change among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah by violent means. Even when males of Sodom were seeking to rape Lot’s angelic visitors, that righteous man pleaded with them: “Please, my brothers, do not act badly.” (Gen. 19:7) Lot patiently waited upon Jehovah God to express judgment against them.
Similarly, God’s servants today realize that they have not been authorized to use violence to bring about social changes in the world. “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Rom. 12:19) They take seriously the Bible’s advice to avoid involvement with those who insist on forcing a change. A Bible proverb admonishes: “With those who are for a change [“those who rebel,” New American Bible], do not intermeddle. For their disaster will arise so suddenly, that who is aware of the extinction of those who are for a change?” (Prov. 24:21, 22) Surely, life already has enough problems without a person’s adding to them by trying to alter things prematurely.
Even if violent means should succeed in bringing about a change, what guarantee is there that it will really be for the better? The Bible is very realistic in providing the following comment on human rulership: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Eccl. 8:9) Human rulership simply cannot satisfy in all respects. Besides, men die and are replaced by others in official positions, persons who may carry on even greater corruption and oppression.
Many things, however, can be changed for the better without resorting to violence. For example, in the first century C.E., some Christian slaves were extended an opportunity to be free. While they never would have revolted against their masters, they could rightly accept an offer to be emancipated. The apostle Paul wrote: “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Cor. 7:21) So it may be a matter of patiently waiting. Then, when the opportune time comes to make a change, a person can seize it without becoming guilty of rash action. There certainly is no objection to anyone’s making a good change within the framework established by the law.
When it comes to seeking change, however, it is good to keep in mind that, because of a limited life-span, humans are unable to correct a host of defective things. Also, an imperfect worldly system is against it. King Solomon noted: “That which is made crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot possibly be counted.”—Eccl. 1:15.
Really, the only one who can rectify all things is the Creator, Jehovah God. He is not limited by a time factor, as are short-lived humans. Hence, he can act at a time when the greatest good can be accomplished. Not even the dead lose out, for it is his purpose to resurrect them.—Acts 24:15.
The change that God has purposed to bring about is far grander than what any man could effect. Note what the Bible says: “He [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:4.
Does this mean that persons should just passively wait until God changes things? No, this is a time for people to make changes in their own life. God “is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent.” (Acts 17:30) This means regretting one’s former course of life and changing it to conform to God’s requirements.
Genuine changes of a personal nature can even have a wholesome influence on others. For example, when a harsh person is treated kindly, he may become ashamed of his actions. His heart may move him to respond with kindness. In the Bible we read: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.”—Rom. 12:20.
All who profess to serve God should, therefore, make it their determination to lead exemplary lives. Then, when they try to help others to live in harmony with the Scriptures, their words will carry weight.
Considering that the human life-span is short, we can see the importance of making good personal changes and avoiding involvement in efforts that can lead to frustration, disappointment and perhaps even a premature death, as in a violent revolution. Yes, we do well to take in Bible knowledge, apply it and actively aid others to make changes in their life. This is the only course that produces lasting benefits. On the other hand, changes when brought about by violence so often result in injury. Also, they are only temporary. First John 2:17 says: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”
The Bible thus makes it clear that all the changes that God requires of humans should definitely be made. Any efforts to change this imperfect world, however, are bound to fail. This is because God has purposed for it to be replaced by a righteous new order. So it is Scripturally wrong to become involved in efforts, violent or otherwise, to change the worldly arrangement of things. We should, therefore, patiently wait for the Creator to make the needed changes at a time that will accomplish the greatest good for all concerned.