On this day in 1917, riots and demonstrations erupted in the city of Petrograd, now called St. Petersburg. The February Revolution, so named because Russia observed the Julian calendar at that time, was the beginning of the end of three centuries of czarist rule. Fed up with food shortages and the ravages of war, angry mobs forced the abdication of Nicholas II a week later. The power vacuum was quickly filled by Lenin and his Bolsheviks, who established communist rule in Russia. Over a year later, the Bolsheviks executed Nicholas and his family in a Siberian camp.
One definition for revolution is the violent overthrow of a government by its citizens. Another way to define revolution is “dramatic change.” The Industrial Revolution was not violent, but the technological advancements it produced drastically altered how people lived and worked.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus sparked a revolution that wielded prayer and ministry instead of spear and dagger. Leading a 12-man army that included fishermen and tax collectors, the Galilean carpenter warred against religious hypocrisy and spiritual oppression. In the end, He lifted a cross in the place of a sword, disarming the demonic powers by shedding His blood, emerging from the grave, and ascending into heaven. From the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to fill His disciples with grace and power, and continues to do so to this day.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that worldly weapons are powerless against diabolical strongholds. Anger, pride, and greed can’t be taken down by fists or bullets. We won’t establish true peace at the end of a gun barrel or turn hatred into love by the violence of harsh words. If we want peace in our households, we must speak peace. If we want to take ground for God’s kingdom, we must wage war on our knees.
Sadly, the pages of history are stained with blood from wars fought to advance Christianity. Some battles even erupted within churchly ranks, such as the Reformation conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. But it is the bloodless revolutions that have grabbed the hearts of people and effected deep societal change. Rev. Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience is a prime example. Through sit-ins, boycotts and other peaceful protests, King opened the door for racial justice and equality in America. His speeches and sermons stirred people, but King did more than talk; he put axioms into action. In his 1988 book, Parting the Waters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch recounted the night of January 30, 1956 when a bomb was planted on the porch of King’s house in Montgomery, Alabama. No one was injured, but neighbors were inflamed and ready to take up arms. King calmed the mob on his porch, saying, “Don’t get panicky … don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said … I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”
The bloody Russian Revolution of 1917 ushered in communism, a corrupt system that lasted only 70 years in the former Soviet Union. The revolution that Jesus started was founded on divine love, and “of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33 KJV).