Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Consequences

A couple of years ago there was this story in the news about a truck driver. It seems that he was a Christian, married, and a long-haul driver. As a long-haul driver, he was assigned a partner to drive with and share the sleeper. He told his boss that he couldn't drive with a female driver because it would violate his beliefs. As might be expected, his boss assigned a female driver. When he refused to go with her, they fired him.

The story became news because of the lawsuit that followed. The ACLJ waded into the situation and sued on behalf of the Christian driver to get his job back. He was fired for religious reasons, they argued, and it was wrong ...

In another story over at Puritan, a 13-year-old student in Australia refused to write a paper on how she would cope if she was a heterosexual living in a homosexual community on the moon. Now, given, the details are murky. The whole "don't tell your parents" thing is really odd, for instance. However, the basic story is that this 13-year-old Christian girl stood her ground based on her moral beliefs and paid a price for it in the form of her first-ever "F". Of course, outrage followed, both on the part of parents, then joined by State Opposition and Australian Christian Lobby, forcing a change in policy and a resolution to the event. (Note: There are questions about the facts of this story, as indicated in the comments here. The questions regarding the facts have no impact on my point.)

It's not new. Christians are placed in situations that violate their particular beliefs. Maybe it's work. Maybe it's school. Maybe it's even at home. And we admire those Christians who, faced with these situations, stand firm on their beliefs. But what disturbs me is the perception that once a person stands firm on their beliefs, they shouldn't have to bear consequences.

There is an example story in Acts 4-5. Peter and John were arrested for preaching the Gospel (something they were commanded by Christ to do). The rulers and elders were opposed to their preaching, but were somewhat concerned because they had just done an undeniable miracle (Acts 4:16), and 5,000 people (Acts 4:4) had just come to agree with what was being preached. Rather than face down the crowd, the leaders decided to simply command them not to speak about Christ (Acts 4:18). Peter and John responded, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19-20). The two were further threatened and then released. So they went to their local Christian lawyer and filed a suit to prevent the rulers from blocking their free speech and freely exercising their religious beliefs.

No, that's not in there. They went to the other believers and placed the situation in the hands of the One who could handle it. "Truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:27-30). That was their plan. Leave it in the hands of the One who orchestrated the death of His own Son.

So they went out and started preaching and healing again. They followed the direct command of Christ to make disciples in direct opposition to the authorities of the day. The result was jail (Acts 5:17-18). When they went to trial, they repeated their position. "Peter and the apostles answered and said, 'We must obey God rather than men'" (Acts 5:29). Then their lawyer showed up and demonstrated that they were within their rights to stand on their beliefs and that the Sandhedrin had no right to prevent them from preaching. No, that's not in there either. Instead, they were whipped and warned.

Funny thing ... nowhere in any of this account is anything about "That's not fair!" There is nothing about their rights, nothing about how wrong the Sanhedrin was, nothing about how they shouldn't have to suffer for their beliefs. James the brother of John is beheaded (Acts 12:1-2), and there is no moral outrage. Peter is arrested, and he's surprised when he is freed by an angel (Acts 12:3-17). Paul was stoned to death in Lystra (Acts 14:8-19) and I don't read anything about his moral outrage. Instead he told the Christians there, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). When he and Silas were imprisoned, they didn't call their lawyers; they sang hymns (Acts 16:25).

Our primary example, of course, is the one after whom we are named: Christ. He bore the ultimate injustice and did so as a lamb, silent. He was without fault and bore the fault of all of us without a complaint.

We are indeed to stand on our beliefs. We are indeed commanded to stand firm. But the real glory is not in standing firm behind our lawyers and rights. The real glory is in sharing in the same suffering as Christ. "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil 1:29). "If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God" (1 Peter 2:20). By all means, stand. But expect consequences. That is the right thing to do.

3 comments:

Samantha said...

Our lives are different now...we don't live for the world, we live to glorify God. It seems to me that those who are looking for a reward for their persecution(s) are receiving the only reward they'll get...and it won't be from God.

Compassionate Conservative said...

Stan, Great post, and I agree that we must be willing to suffer for Christ (2 Timothy 3:12). However, it is Biblical to use the law to your benefit in cases like the ones you metioned. Paul certainly did after the incedent at the Phillipian jail, threatening to appeal to the emperor after he was jailed. He used his Roman citizenship to his advantage several other times as well.
It is just and right that we use our laws to ur advantage

Stan said...

I don't disagree that we can use the law to our benefit. However, in the first example I cited, it was within the rights of the company to assign whomever they pleased to drive with the driver. They were not obligated to give this driver extra rights because he had higher morals. In cases like these it is difficult to cry "Foul!" because we don't think there should be consequences to doing what we believe is right.