Men of character. Bold. Brave. Committed.
Peter and John and the Apostles were men of conviction. They so believed that they were part of something greater that they could not help but speak. After all, they had “seen and heard” the very things they were speaking about. Yet, time and again they were criticized, even threatened, if they continued. Even if it meant punishment.
In The Acts of the Apostles, we read:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:27-29
Consider this: Peter and the others knew exactly what this government was capable of. They’d seen the beatings, the whipping, the mockery…they were at the trial that weekend when the whole thing played out. Jesus, placed out front for all to see, was manipulated by a religious system that he knew all too well and accused of political subversion. Yet, Jesus stood quietly and endured the false accusations because he was part of a larger redemptive purpose.
Still, the Apostles experienced all that took place, and, in spite of it, they had been empowered to speak of what they had seen and heard. In the midst of imprisonment and threats, when push came to shove, they obeyed God…not men.
We must do the same.
On Monday, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued a post regarding the New Mexico Supreme Court decision in the case Elane Photography, LLC v. Vanessa Willcock. Mohler’s post, “It is the Price of Citizenship”? – An Elegy for Religious Liberty in America, lays out the details of the court decision and its potential effects on religious liberty in America. It is a bleak picture, and I encourage you to read it.
The First Amendment
When our Constitution was adopted in 1787, the First Amendment stated with purpose that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof…
We’ve succeeded in the first part quite well, but our government is on a slippery slope toward eradicating the latter. Our Founding Fathers had no intention of removing religion from our culture. The very men who framed the Constitution were the ones who planned and participated in religious services in the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Religion and biblical morality was firmly entrenched in their political philosophy.
Now, though, we have judges who intend to stand the First Amendment on its head and “interpret” law in ways which it was not intended. To some extent, we have judges who are both lawyers and theologians saying to us what the First Amendment should mean.
The New Mexico Supreme Court hangs their decision on the fact that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are now firmly placed alongside race, creed and religion. We cannot discriminate based on race, gender, or religion – and that is right and good. But, refusing to participate in something that so egregiously opposes religious conviction and beliefs does not constitute discrimination. It is an extension of religious exercise, because we, as Christians, are called to extend our beliefs on other days, not just Sunday.
We need to take a stand – and “obey God rather than men.”