“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”
― Thomas Jefferson
Governor Newsom (CA) has taken a stance of religious prejudice against churches, declaring the singing and chanting within a church is illegal. The over-reaching evil of power-hungry governors and mayors has shown American citizens just how far they are willing to go (as long as they meet no resistance). Friends in other parts of the country aren’t allowed to go back to church gathers (a very essential component of our faith), but can eat in restaurants, shop at stores and use lottery machines (if they so wish).
This year I’ve watched as people I thought to be bold and purposeful in their perspective have shifted to fearful and unsure in their stance. They have taken a posture of “caution” over courage, and in the name of love (which apparently only looks like wearing a mask if told and submitting to government) have declared any other stance on an issue prideful or selfish. People have drawn black and white lines and relied on the illogical either/or dilemmas, booting out rational dialogue and common sense and science. Not only that, but churches across the nation have said, “You’re right. We don’t need to meet. It’s superfluous anyway. And watching on a screen is adequate.” Really? Why do we gather as believers? Is it just a suggestion or is it a command that we’ve made optional based on circumstances? And since when did the Body of Christ start taking their orders from anyone other than Christ and His Word? The predominant question that keeps floating through my mind is this: who do we follow and who do we fear? Is it God and His Great Commission over our lives or is it the fear of man–being misunderstood, or heaven forbid, being liable for something unpopular? Who decides what the Church looks like and how it operates? How far do we take this submission thing, allowing an ungodly governmental power to declare what the Church can and cannot do?
True Following Doesn’t Always Look Like Submission to the World
The Christians in China (and other suppressed areas of our world) understand what it means to focus on their Lord and their mission, but doing so requires that they rebel against the laws and regulations of their country and they are prepared to face those consequences. “The only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party” (China’s Imposed Rules). The government commanded believers not to congregate, but they do because Scripture commands it (“not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Heb. 10:25). Jail time is a realty for many Christians, but they understand they weren’t left on this planet to hide or stay comfortable, nor submit to the will of man, but to the will of God, who calls them to a higher purpose.
The early Church in Acts was under constant threat of persecution and yet, the disciples continued spreading the Good News, preaching, teaching, healing and casting out demons in Jesus’ name. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they fearlessly pushed through in the name of Jesus for His sake and for the eternal soul safety of the lost and dying.
Standing Up for Truth and Freedom is Not Wrong
Many Christians right now are claiming that passivity and submission are the only ways to show love and humility, and that speaking up–or even asking questions–against the status quo is wrong. But these two camps are not mutually exclusive. Paul, an apostle and one of the foremost writers of the New Testament, exuded humility, understanding that his significance, his salvation, and his strength came only through Jesus (Phil. 3:8). And yet, this same Paul regularly petitioned the ruling governors and even Caesar (Acts 25th) to release him from prison and to listen to reason regarding his contention with the Pharisees and other religious leaders persecuting The Way.
Some argue that Jesus didn’t defend himself when arrested. Jesus did turn his cheek, and when he was being tried, he didn’t plead his case or assert for the truth (His mission was to come and die as a sacrifice). However, that’s not to say that all Christians everywhere should never speak out against injustice or reason and assert the truth in matters of common sense and liberty. Jesus boldly declared that His House was for God alone–not the ways of man (and certainly not for elevated position, comfort, or greed–when did the church become a business again?). In Acts 22, Paul was getting ready to be flogged for preaching the Gospel, and “Paul said to the centurion standing there, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?'” His assertiveness and courage to say, “Hey, wait a minute. This isn’t right!” led to his release.
We can stand up or remain seated for the same reasons: selfishness, pride, comfort, and fear. But again, refuting that narrowed perspective of either/or illogical thinking, we can stand up against oppression and still stand up for our brothers and sisters in the faith. We are motivated by love, not fear. For Christ’s love casts out all fear (ALL fears). We are motivated by truth, not comfortable lies that are easier left alone. And His mission requires us to do something for the sake of those around us. We need to see out beyond the next six months and work toward more eternal goals.
We Can Humbly Stand for Justice and Liberty for the Oppressed
Our Lord commends those who aren’t afraid to stand tall and lift an arm of defense against those who try to oppress. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Is.58:6).
Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Prov. 31:8-9: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Is. 1:17: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Let’s be men and women of both bracing backbone and tenderheartedness: can we call it gracious gumption? And let’s get out there and say, “no” to those who need to hear it and “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s leading. We are at war right now, and we can’t just set aside our weapons and declare “peace” when truth and justice and righteous freedom need defending. Let’s fight valiantly now because bigger battles are coming.