Along the Christian life there are trials that test one's faith. Paul
admonished, "Yea; and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3: 12). When a person becomes a disciple
they have become a follower of the teaching, example and life of Jesus
Christ, hence the name "Christian."
When you examine the life and teaching of Jesus you see love, kindness,
goodness, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, understanding, and self-
sacrifice. It is said that, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the
Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all
that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him" (Acts 10:38).
Christ refused to retaliate against those who persecuted him.
1 Peter 2:21-24 reads, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ
also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his
steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when
he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not;
but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self
bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins,
should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
Man by his fleshly nature strikes back when verbally or physically
assaulted, however, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ one must not take,
"An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" but must "bend over
backwards" to do good to those who would do him wrong. Christianity is
the religion that insists that the child of God must not "resist evil,"
but must "turn the other cheek" and "go the second mile." Even harder
for the carnal mind to accept is the principle to "love... do good...
and even pray for" those who have no regard for you, who would curse
you, and even use and persecute you. (Read Matthew 5:38-45). But Jesus
insists that only in this way can we be a child of God.
You can be certain that there are many who profess to "know Christ" and
to "be a Christian" who will not accept these New Testament principles.
Theirs is not true Christianity.
Along with the necessity to live "in the world, but not be of the
world," and to obey those who are established rulers and figures of
authority in the society which surrounds us (Romans 13), the sincere
Christian often finds himself at odds with the laws set up by the carnal
We have been taught that we are to "obey the laws of the land" but when
those laws contradict the teaching of Jesus and his apostles what are we
to do? Clearly the example set in the New Testament by the apostle Peter
and children of God is that when there must be a choice made, "We ought
to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
There are laws that the Christian cannot obey and remain faithful to the
Lord. Furthermore, there are situations menacingly looming on the
horizon which must be dealt with. Young people are faced with more and
more concern about their future. Some are thinking, "When the test
comes how will I be able to stand... Is there some way to brace myself
for the trial?"
First of all, whoever you are and no matter what you have faced before
there may come a time when your faith will be painfully tested. The
best way to prepare yourself for the great trials in life is to be
faithful in the small things. Jesus said, "He that is faithful in that
which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the
least is unjust also in much." Read Luke 16:10-13.
After you have done all your preparation, hiding His word in your heart
and being "faithful in that which is least," you still don't know if you
have the strength to stand a great test that might come along. Peter
taught the keys to succeeding in Christ were to humble yourself, be
sober and vigilant, and to cast your care on the Lord because He cares
for you (1 Peter 5:6-8). Why was Paul triumphant in his service to God?
When there was a strong possibility he would personally be assaulted,
prosecuted, and imprisoned when he went to the work in Judea, his answer
was, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto
myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry,
which I have received of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:22-25).
It might be beneficial to know some trials which might come our way.
One of which is the testing of our faith by officials of the government.
In other words - HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT OF THIS NATION DEAL WITH PEOPLE
WHO HAVE RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS THAT PROHIBIT THEM FROM OBEYING CERTAIN
LAWS WHICH THEY BELIEVE ARE CONTRARY TO THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE?
I am opposed to participation in military service in any form but I do
not plan to address this subject now. The purpose of this study is to
examine how the government and the courts are dealing with people who
oppose certain laws which violate their faith.
In recent years there have been a growing number of religious people in
this land who have opposed sending their children to public schools.
Most of these hold it as an act of faith. And for this reason they have
refused to send their children to public schools and some have begun
teaching them at home. Others for the same reasons have formed private
Because the government sets standards which must be met in order for a
school to be recognized as legal, many of these private teaching
situations and "church" operated schools have come under severe attack.
They have been closed. Those operating them have been harassed; they
have been persecuted. Some have been arrested, tried in the courts,
convicted, and sent to prison.
Now, sending your children to government run schools may not violate
your conscience, and you may not believe you are mandated by God to seek
another form of education, but some religious people do. However, from
the treatment of the people who do hold those convictions, we can learn,
with some degree of certainty, just how the government treats any
No doubt, you are aware that the Constitution of the United States of
America provides governmental protection for any person with religious
conviction which prohibits him or her from obeying a specific rule of
law. The First Amendment to the Constitution begins, "Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof..."
As we progress in this study we need to define certain terms which we
will use from time to time so that we will have a clear understanding of
the subject being discussed. The first term that needs explanation is
our use here of "the court." When we use "the court," it is no
particular court. It will be used with reference to the court which has
jurisdiction in the matter. It may be the local court, or the state
court, but by and large "the court" refers to the U. S. Supreme Court.
The expression "the church" refers to a group of persons who belong
together because of common beliefs. It will generally refer to the
group of persons in a particular case. We understand in our case it is
"the church of Christ," "the Lord's church," "the New Testament church."
The people in positions of governmental authority do not understand what
we do, and therefore do not make a distinction between religious groups.
When we speak of "the government" it is the government which is the
authority in the matter. If we say that someone is "in trouble with the
government" we are referring to offices of government. In Ohio, where
they have had a lot of trouble with religious opposition to public
schools, for a long time they had a governor who was sympathetic to the
cause of religious objectors. We are not talking about a person or a
small group of persons when we speak of "the government.".
There are people in government all over the nation who are extremely
sympathetic to those who hold Christian beliefs, while others believe
that Christianity is the absolute worst scourge to an intelligent man's
mind. They think that it ought to be destroyed at all costs. But
neither of these groups is referred to when we use the term "the
government." It is a much broader picture of government that we speak
of and have seen involved in these matters.
CHRISTIAN FAITH SUFFERS OPPOSITION
Jesus taught his disciples, "If the world hate you, ye know that it
hated me before it hated you... the world would love his own: but
because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John
15:18,19). The Lord referred to his followers as "the children of
light" in John 12:36. He also stated that "this is the condemnation,
that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than
light, because there deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil
hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be
reproved" (John 3:19,20).
We know that light always reproves or destroys darkness. The darkness
vanishes when the light shines. Lost men love darkness. Jesus lets the
Christian know that he is "light," and that evil men who love darkness
will therefore hate the disciple of Christ. For this very reason
Christians have met with opposition in the world. Wherever true
disciples have gone in the world they have been hated and despised.
If you want to see something astonishing go into one of these modern
religious book stores and just take note of the shelf after shelf of
books on how to go about being a Christian life in love, peace and
harmony with all men. We might call it "the love theology." We hear
denominational preachers spouting this doctrine on radio and TV, how
that, if a Christian will love everybody, everybody will love the
Christian and all problems will disappear.
Even more alarming is to hear some of this denominational rubbish
spouted from our own pulpits. But the kind of love which Christ and God
have shown seeks to reveal sins, give the blood of Christ as the only
atonement, and offer forgiveness and fellowship.
Usually those who try to teach this "love theology" quote from the
writings of Paul and Peter. But just think about how good these men
were at doing that. They got along so well with everybody that they
were stoned, beaten, thrown out of towns, cast in prison and ultimately
killed. Yet some of us, somehow, would like to appropriate their
writings to mean that we can be a Christian, live a sufferless life, and
go to Heaven. It seems that suddenly, the Scriptures that talk about
persecution don't apply to us in the United States; they belong to
people who might live in Red China, or North Korea, or Iraq.
Look for the next installment of this study, in the next issue of The Christian Informer. At that time we want to begin examining isolated
instances of the treatment of today's religious people in order to
understand the big picture: what has happened to those with faith today
and what might lie in store for us. We want to learn just how the
government and the court will determine your case.