As I have watched the saga of Kim Davis unfold I sit wondering and struggling to make sense of it all in some way that is relevant and useful. On the one hand, I agree and give full support to the stance that Kim is making. She is solidly living by her conviction in this matter and it really isn’t for me to try and look inside of her mind or heart to discover ulterior motives.
On the other hand, a law is a law and she violated that law. In addition, she violated the rights of citizens of the country in which she lives. How would I feel or how would I want the government to respond if someone in authority denied me my right to own firearms when the law said I fully had that right?The conclusion I ultimately seem to come to each and every time is this: We have blurred the line between being an American and being a Christian. As the line continues to blur, I believe we confuse what is truly critical with what is truly convenient. We must decide which comes first. Are we Americans who also happen to be Christians or are we Christians who happen to live in America? There is a difference and it isn’t merely word order. Which you are determines what your priorities are. What is our first priority?
If we are to be the disciples and followers of Jesus in our world, in our day and age, in our context, we need to look back and see how the early church handled such situations in theirs while evaluating their motives and priorities as recorded for us in Scripture. The book of Acts provides foundational precedent in such matters.
In Acts 4 and 5 there are two incidences where followers of Jesus were arrested for holding fast to their convictions as Christians. How they responded needs to be carefully thought through as we walk the rocky road that is before us and these situations become normative rather than the exception.
In both instances in Acts 4 and 5, the disciples made statements regarding obeying God or obeying human authority. So far so good! I see this being quoted in many situations today (as it should). Where I question the response of today’s Christian comes from the rest of those accounts.
Reading the stories of imprisonment and persecution in Acts 4 and 5 a few details stand out that should guide us.
1) Their first priority was never their rights. Even later in the narrative of Acts when Paul calls upon his Roman citizenship it isn’t to gain his freedom, it is to gain a hearing so that he might proclaim the Gospel. As Christians we must never forget God doesn’t promise religious freedom but He does promise persecution.
2) They accepted the consequences of their convictions. In the Biblical record we never see any believer being arrested for their faith who doesn’t go willingly and peacefully. Their confidence found in being faithful to God allowed them the strength and grace to suffer graciously…even when beaten. If our Christian convictions compel us to break the law of the land we must expect to suffer the consequences of such actions.
3) They found strength and hope in prayer and quoting the Bible. Our hope and strength never rests on any human government or man-given rights and freedoms. Their understanding of Scripture gave them a basis for interpreting and evaluating the world they lived in and thus reminded them the Lord was ultimately over all authority.
4) They counted it a blessing to suffer in the name of Jesus. Their suffering became a platform not for a religious political agenda but for the proclamation of the Gospel.
As Christians who live in America, our rights have been built into our legal system and those rights need to continually be fought for and advocated. We need to engage our political system at whatever level we are able, including legal action to protect our rights. Let us never forget though, our number one priority is not our rights as Americans, it is our commission as disciples of Jesus. Lets make sure we keep that straight and not confuse being American with being a follower of Jesus. Lets make certain that our priority is the Gospel, not our comfortable existence.