Plebiscites, presidents, public discourse, and prayer.
So much debate, so much angst, such rancour; and that’s just among the Christians, let alone in any interaction with those on the other side of these issues.
The plebiscite on marriage equality. A question to all the Aussie Christians pinning their hopes on ‘winning’ the possible upcoming plebiscite. Is that where your hope is? Still having a majority?
And Presidents. Yes, I know it is America, but oh how we Aussies are all in a tizz over the upcoming presidential elections. Not to mention the tizz we are in watching our own political machinations in Canberra. Another question. Is this what we Christians have descended to? Arguing over who is the lesser of two evils?
And if it is not these two ‘Earth shattering’ issues, Christians can always agonise over our eviction from the public space and the relentless secularisation of all public discourse.
Want to know something? We’ve been here before, and many times. Read your Bibles, turn off 90% of the news and current affairs you are watching (the headlines generally suffice to keep you up with what is going on), get on your knees, AND SHARE THE GOOD NEWS!
Yep, it really is that simple.
Let me explain. It is simple because that is what our Lord asks of us, to connect with him and learn to do life HIS way. It is hard because we seem to have already been brainwashed to fight the world WITH the world’s weapons, and we don’t want to lay them down. It’s hard to walk away from our pet battles and quiet ourselves in prayer and communion. It is hard to trust God when all around us seems to be going to pot. Like Peter we want to get up and swing a sword or two.
Want to be encouraged to take this life changing leap into real peace and real action for the Kingdom? Let’s look at the very first example in the early church. If we take note of what they did, and the results, we might just want to lay aside most of what we are presently doing.
Act 4:1-3 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. (2) They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. (3) They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.
Whoa, jail? Yes, jail! That’s how things started for us folks. That’s pretty much how it has been ever since for 2,000 years, except for a few times when we ended up in the majority, and that never lasted. It always went back to us getting slung in jail.
So let me say this as kindly as possible, us getting slung in jail is the normal Christian life over the past 2,000 years. The times such as in the English speaking world the past 250 years has been so constant FOR US that we miss this. And just maybe the fact that we got so used to ‘our normal’ that we have lost something of the fire that Christians in the rest of the world have while they live with getting slung into jail fairly regularly. Did you ever suspect that maybe God doesn’t want us to stay in the ‘majority role’ anymore?
But there’s more in this story, and it’s to do with how we should respond to what the world wants to do to Christians (sling them into jail, that is) Let’s read on in Acts 4 some more
Act 4:7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Yep, up before the magistrate.
Act 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! (9) If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, (10) then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. (11) Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ (12) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Well that’s one way to win friends and influence people isn’t it? Let’s give those prosecutors even more ammunition!
Anyway, at the end of this episode three things are worth noting.
First – Act 4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Just like you and I are ordered not to speak about Jesus in the public arena today in so many settings.
Now, I want to pause from the narrative for a moment here and ask; what would we do in this kind of circumstance? Go to our local MP? Start up a petition? See a lawyer? Maybe get together a protest march? That’s always popular (and makes us feel good too). Or remind ourselves that we need to get politically savvy and use ‘our influence.’
Well, what did the early church do? Let’s return to the story.
Second – Act 4:19-20 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! (20) As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
You know, I don’t see any agonising here, no indignation as to their rights being trampled. Just plain simple ‘stepping over the top of the garbage’ evangelism if I can put it that way.
Oh, you’re gonna beat us up? Let me tell you about Jesus.
You’re gonna put us in jail you say? Let me tell you about what we saw, Jesus.
Thirdly – Act 4:23-25 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. (24) When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. (25) You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
Not just Peter and John, but the whole church immediately figured out that this opposition and threatening was a cause of rejoicing, read right through to verse 31, it is simply AMAZING! Not a hint of political action, just praise and rejoicing and worship, filled with the Holy Spirit.
So dear brothers and sisters, instead of agonising over some of today’s political and social storms how about pulling together into Holy Spirit filled praying, sharing and rejoicing in the opportunities to preach the good news. Yes, even if and when it gets you ‘slung in jail.’