Years ago, I taught Bible to junior highers. Part of the requirement was to memorize Scripture, and inevitably someone would ask why. Sometimes I would pose the question: What if a foreign government swooped in and took away our Bibles. It seemed like a far-fetched possibility, but beyond my imagination was the idea that our own government might tamper with our religious freedoms.
Yet, that’s precisely what’s happening. The government, and social pressure exerted by those in position to do so. A&E, for example.
The government’s role currently centers on a portion of the Obamacare legislation that requires businesses to purchase for their employees, health insurance that would cover abortions and “morning after” pills. Any number of businesses run by people who believe the Bible speaks against taking the life of an unborn child will be forced to do something against their religious convictions or go out of business because the penalties for refusing to purchase the required coverage are prohibitive.
There are several cases before the Supreme Court that might reverse this.
So, do we sign petitions?
Or how about the Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who’s life is in danger or the Iranian-American pastor, Saeed Abedini, who was not included in the State Department’s negotiations with Iran. Do we sign petitions to get our government to take our concerns seriously, to pressure them into doing what we think is right?
Or how about the 700,000 people who are advocating a boycott of A&E on Facebook? The conglomerate dismissed the Duck Dynasty guy off the show he created as a result of his answers in a print interview. He was asked about sin and stated his belief that homosexuality falls into that category.
I think it’s reprehensible that a Christian can’t declare what the Bible declares without getting fired from his job.
But I also think it was reprehensible that Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for their faith or that Peter was, that John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, and on and on.
The thing is, the New Testament Christians didn’t turn to political or social pressure as a means to escape suffering. Rather, Peter taught specifically that suffering was cause for rejoicing and was a blessing (see 1 Peter 2 and 4). Even so, believers gathered when Peter’d been condemned to die–not to rejoice, but to pray for his release. And miraculously God answered their prayers.
In contrast, there are examples of Old Testament figures who turned away from God rather than looking to Him as the means for their rescue. King Asa of Judah comes to mind. He started out so well, but his own success puffed him up, and he determined to get out of the next scrape his own way.
God reproved him for turning to a foreign power instead of to Him:
At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”(2 Chron. 16:7-9, emphasis mine)
So are we Christians today trying to rely on Aram rather than God? I think so.
We should be in prayer. We should ask God to intervene for us, to rescue us, to bring about revival, to use the present circumstances to shine a light on His grace and mercy.
Instead we are shining a light on our rights–rights which I pray fervently God will protect. But it is God who keeps us, not our rights. It is God who gives those rights and who takes them away, as He did the freedom of the Israelites who rejected Him.
Why would we think the Church today should not have the same admonition to trust God, not our own understanding, that the believers of old had?
Do we think we’ve become so much more capable that we can handle our problems without God? Or do we turn to God to ratify our schemes (God, give us a 100,000 more signatures).
I don’t mean to make light of this. Perhaps God is directing some people to confront our leaders. In a democracy, the people are responsible, and I think we should be speaking out, not quietly slinking into the shadows where we can practice our religion in secret. That happens in totalitarian societies. We don’t need to act as if we’re being persecuted to that extent.
We need to speak up and tell the truth–that a person getting fired for speaking his conscience, is wrong. It’s a violation of the First Amendment.
We also need to pray. If we are not looking to God when we’re under attack, when will we look to Him?