by Andrew Lansdown
Wherever there is injustice, real or imagined, there is protest. Hardly a week passes without a protest march or meeting somewhere in our nation. Unionists protest work conditions. Students protest university policies. Green activists protest logging quotas. Pacifists protest military action. Rate payers protest planning decisions. And so on …
There are many ways for protesters to express their views. Some use a megaphone. Some chant. Some hurl stones or abuse. Some chain themselves to trees or buildings. Some block traffic. And some carry placards.
Of all protest methods, the placard is perhaps the most effective—so much so that whenever and wherever protesters gather, placards appear.
Placards are highly effective for several reasons.
Firstly, they are permanent. The protester does not have to repeat his statement to every passer-by. The placard does that for him.
Secondly, placards speak above all other voices. Hundreds of people can be shouting out so that no single person can be heard, but the placard, held on a stick above the crowd, calmly proclaims its message to every eye.
Thirdly, placards are to the point. There is no room for waffle on a placard. The message must be conveyed succinctly, in a minimum of words.
Fourthly, placards are memorable. The few words that express the essence of the protest are often witty or pithy and are therefore easy to remember.
Placards not only defy the enemy but also define the protest. They are the standards that protesters carry into battle.
While protesters are sometimes mistaken about the rights and wrongs of their cause, the impulse to protest against injustice is a good one. It arises from something deep and good within human nature. In fact, it is the image of God within us that moves us to protest injustice.
It is because God made us in his likeness that we possess an understanding of justice. Hens at a battery farm, for example, may suffer in their cramped cages, but they do not protest. Their suffering does not produce in them a sense of injustice. Even when animal rights activists protest on their behalf, battery hens still understand nothing about the rights and wrongs of their situation. They do not know, and they cannot come to know, anything about justice and injustice. This is because God did not impart his moral and mental likeness to them when he made them.
Only we humans bear God’s likeness, so only we know right from wrong and justice from injustice. Because we have fallen into sin, God’s image in us is marred. And because his image is spoiled, our sense of justice/injustice is sometimes misplaced or distorted by selfishness or partisanship. But the sense of justice/injustice itself is an inevitable function of bearing the image of a God who is just.
Being made in God’s image, we possess an innate understanding of justice—and an innate yearning for it. It is this understanding-cum-yearning that leads us to protest injustice. Even the act of protesting is an expression of our God-likeness. For God himself is a protester, as the Bible implies.
One Bible author, the apostle Paul, indicates that God staged a protest 2,000 years ago through the execution of his Son, Jesus Christ. Paul states that Jesus was “publicly portrayed as crucified”.1 The Greek word translated “publicly portrayed” refers to “the act of posting up public announcements or notices”.2 Or to put it another way, it refers to raising a placard. One translator has rendered the meaning of Paul’s statement as follows: “Jesus Christ was placarded publicly as the Crucified One”.2
In a sense, then, God is the Original Protester—and the placard he holds up is the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Through the cross, God protests against the injustice of mankind’s sin. He is grieved and outraged at our rebellion against his laws, our ingratitude concerning all his goodness towards us, our rejection of his love, and our maliciousness towards one another. In short, he protests against our moral corruption.
The cross of Christ Jesus is the expression of God’s protest. It is his placard. It declares to all people that sin must and will be punished. Nailed to the cross, Jesus was a living, suffering, dying placard. He vividly portrayed not only God’s ongoing protest against sin, but also his forthcoming punishment of sinners.
The cross is God’s placard. And the message it proclaims is: THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!
God is holy and will not tolerate sin. The cross upon which Jesus died is unmistakable and powerful proof of that. If God did not spare his own sinless Son, but sacrificed him for us all, we can be certain that he will not spare us if we remain in our sins.
The wages of sin is death: this is the terrible message of God’s placard. But it is not the only message. After a person has read the first message on the divine placard, a second message becomes visible. And this second message is as wonderful as the first is dreadful. It declares: THE FREE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE!
God did not merely protest against our sins at the cross. Rather, he actually did something about them.
When human beings protest, it is usually an indication that they are powerless. They must confront someone or something (a government or an organisation) that is bigger than them. They cannot do anything about a perceived injustice and so they must resort to placards to declare their cause. They must try to cadge concessions or rally support.
This is not the case with God. He is omnipotent—that is, all-powerful. Consequently, he protested from a position of strength, not weakness. When he raised the cross as a placard he did more than express indignation at our wrongdoings: he actually overcame them and opened a way of deliverance from them.
With his Son’s wholehearted consent, God the Father made the cross a place of exchange. He shifted ours sins to Jesus in preparation for shifting Jesus’ righteousness to us. God made him our substitute, turning him into our sin-bearer and blame-taker, so that we could be forgiven and go free.
The cross, the divine placard, is not only a protest against sin but also the remedy for sin. Written in blood, its message declares, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”3
God’s placard alerts us to both God’s wrath and God’s grace. When we consider the Lord Jesus on the cross and come to see him as the Saviour who died for us, when we call out to him in sincere repentance and yield to him in simple trust, then God gives us the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
1.Galatians 3:1 in The Holy Bible (English Standard Version).
2.Kenneth S. Wuest, Galatians in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1944; rpt. 1974), p.84.
3.Romans 6:23 in The Holy Bible (English Standard Version).
Copyright © Andrew Lansdown, 2005