In my sermon last week I talked about our responsibilities as Christians in relationship to the governments which rule over us. In Paulís letter to the Romans he explained to them that they had the responsibility to pay their tributes (money paid to the king), customs (taxes that were much like our sales tax), as well as to honor and fear whom was to be honored and feared. Paul wrote these things even when Caesars had historically been immoral. Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero all were known for their gross immoralities. Nero even persecuted Christians, covering them with pitch and burning them alive. (His treatment of Christians even turned the stomachs of the Romans who hated them). And yet, Paul writes a letter telling the Christians in Rome, who clearly had a better understanding of what the royal house was like to be in subjection to their king.
But what happens when said king (or some other ruler) makes living as a Christian not only hard, but intolerable? What are we supposed to do when living as a Christian is against the law? One ruling that slid under the radar in the light of all the same-sex marriage talk over this past week was the ruling in an Oregon court. A baker and his wife had refused to cater a same-sex marriage (In Oregon it was already legal). They fought the case in court and lost. They were ordered to pay a rather hefty fine (one large enough it will likely ruin their business). And then were given a gag order. They were not permitted to publish or cause to be published anything that might be deemed as discriminatory. In other words, they were not permitted to talk about their religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage and homosexuality. They were not permitted to write a book talking about their experiences. They have to be careful about what they say, lest someone else write a book, article, etc about this whole thing. Failure to comply would cause them to be held in contempt of court. (They have already vowed to fight this case further).
This couple is not the first to be given a gag order. As far as I can tell in scriptures, the first gag order actually came at the hands of the Sanhedrin. They ordered Peter and John to cease talking about Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 4:18). In chapter 5 we find that Peter and John ignored the gag order. They kept on preaching. When questioned about it they replied, ďWe must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).Ē I canít help but wonder if this encounter was on Peterís mind when he wrote his first epistle. In it, he told us that if we must suffer, let us suffer for being a Christian (I Pet. 4:16). Let it never be said of us we suffer because we abused someone, or lied under oath, or murdered someone. If we must suffer (in context he is talking about what the law was about to do) then let us suffer for taking a stand with God.
What we need to realize is the precedent that was set by this Oregon court. If I refuse to perform a same-sex marriage and we as a congregation refuse to permit our building to be used for said wedding we too can be sued for refusal. We too might find ourselves standing before a judge telling us that we cannot discriminate against the LGBT community. We cannot refuse them what they wantÖ regardless of our spiritual stance on the issue.
Now, it is easy to sit here and say, as I am not personally faced with this reality, I will not, nor will I ever perform a same-sex marriage. It is easy as a church to say that we will not nor will we ever permit the building here to be used for a same-sex wedding. However, can do it when the judge hands down his order? Can we do it when we are receiving hate mail. Can we do it when we start receiving death threats? Can we do it when they start threatening our children?
Brethren, I wish that I could say that we are many years away from Christian persecution. But the facts are we arenít. It is here in our country and it is happening right now. There was a pastor that was beaten because he spoke out against homosexuality in Washington after the SCOTUS issued their verdict. (That is the very definition of persecution). It is time we start growing up. No longer can we sit idly buy and thank God for our freedoms. Such as the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion and the freedom to do such things without fear of our fellow countrymen. It is time we realize that unless we our mature we will buckle under the weight of persecution.
I wish I knew exactly what is going to happen. I wish I knew exactly how this was going to end for the United States. I simply canít. What I do know is that God wins. If the book of Revelation teaches us anything, it is that God wins. When persecution gets hard, when we are for the most part forced to accept sin, participate in sin, etc we donít have to worry about what happens to us. Maybe God will preserve our life, maybe he wonít. But, what he will do is preserve your soul. No American government can take that from you! -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
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Volume 6 Issue 30