Is the gospel under assault right now in Aylmer, Ontario? Are we Christians being persecuted? Should we be doing something different than we’re doing right now? What does it look like for us to “speak the word without fear”?
Related post: Should This Aylmer Pastor Be Breaking the Law?
One result of Paul’s frequent imprisonments was that other Christians were emboldened, they were energized by his witness of suffering for the sake of Christ (Phil. 1:14). That’s the exact opposite result some would expect. Paul was being punished for speaking the truth of the gospel and the intent on the part of those punishing him was to make clear to others what they could expect if they tried the same thing.
But this doesn’t reduce gospel preaching, it increases it. People who are committed to God and captivated by his word are stirred to speak whenever the gospel is under assault. When you tell Christians not to speak of Christ, as the apostles were in Acts 6, you can be assured that they will speak of Christ at the next opportunity.
Types of Boldness
Bold Christians inspire and energize other Christians, but there are two types of boldness. One leads to good results and the other does not. Bold confident Christians who are wise can inspire other Christians to step out boldly in wisdom. But bold confident Christians who are foolish can inspire other Christians to step out boldly in foolishness.
The small town where I live and pastor a church has been in the national news these last weeks because of a local church that has been disobeying the police by meeting in their cars in their parking lot for worship services on Sunday mornings. The pastor of this church is bold and is attempting to energize his flock to step out boldly.
Making the Case
What should we think of this? We are Christians who count ourselves as people who are bold and confident in the gospel, just as Paul was, just as those who were inspired by Paul were. And we would certainly defend the gospel if it was under assault.
The issue in this case, in our town is being framed by this pastor with three biblical stories: David and Goliath, Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, and the Apostles before the Council.
So, is the gospel under assault right now in Aylmer, Ontario? Are we Christians being persecuted? Should we be doing something different than we’re doing right now? What does it look like for us to “speak the word without fear”?
Is the Gospel Under Assault?
The first thing we need to understand clearly from scripture is that we may not like or agree with decisions that are made, but unless the authorities are compelling us to sin then we are not free to disobey. We are free to challenge but we are not free to disobey.
The questions we must answer, then, are these:
- Is the government, in prohibiting us from meeting together – even if we stay in our cars – compelling us to sin?
- Are they mocking us as the Philistines mocked Israel before David slew Goliath?
- Are they commanding us not to pray, as Nebuchadnezzar did Daniel?
- Are they commanding us, even metaphorically, to bow down to an idol, to pledge our sole allegiance to a false God?
- Are they commanding us not to speak the name of Jesus, as the council did to the apostles?
The answer to all those questions is no. To mock us in this situation would be to allow other large groups to gather in this way for corporate events but not Christians. That’s not happening. We have not been commanded to stop preaching or praying or worshiping. In fact, we are still doing all those things. We have not been asked to bow to any sort of idol that would cause us to betray our allegiance to God. We have not been forbidden to speak the name of Jesus. We’re free to do that all we want.
The Conditions For Disobedience
The conditions for disobedience have not been met, so to disobey the authorities at this point would be for us to sin.
One more possibility that might justify disobedience: Are they compelling us to sin by causing us to ignore the command to meet together that we find in the book of Hebrews? Again, no, because there is a greater command, which is to love God and love your neighbour. And to love our neighbours in this time is to abide by the the rules of those who have been placed in authority over us.
We will continue to obey these orders unless it becomes obvious that Christians are being specifically targeted by them. Until that time, we will obey and we will advocate for a reasonable way forward, as we are doing here.
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