Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Putting the Gospel in Prison

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Apostles are Arrested for Preaching Jesus

Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them.  “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said.  “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”  But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. Acts 5:27-29 (NLT)

Gamaliel’s Warning to the Judges of the Council

“So my advice is, leave these men alone.  Let them go.  If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”    Acts 5:38-39(NLT)
The apostles preached Jesus everywhere they went, and the crowds were growing.  The 70 men who formed the Jewish council of rulers (Sanhedrin) were getting nervous; they couldn’t have this kind of insubordination.  They had warned Peter and the others to keep their public speech respectful (which, to the rulers meant…be quiet about Jesus!)

Warned repeatedly, Peter and the others kept on obeying God’s call to tell everyone the Good News about Jesus, the Christ.  So, back in handcuffs, they stand before the judges, who are trying to figure out what to do with them.

Gamaliel is a member of the council, and the respected teacher who taught Paul in his pre-Christian days.  He has the apostles put out of earshot and gives the council his advice, in which he describes previous uprisings, and then tells them to let this thing run its course.  In his closing argument Gamaliel utters the warning we all need to hear:  if this thing is from God there’s nothing you can do to stop it; and if you try, you might find yourself opposing God!  Is THAT what you really want?[2]

In some ways throughout the last 20 centuries, the cause of Christ has been harmed more by “rulers” than any enemy from “the outside”.  Movements come and go; the Kingdom of God is forever, and is well-able to defend itself. 

Recently (and I really mean the last couple of decades) my Methodist family has been embroiled in a controversy where Gamaliel’s wise counsel can use some dusting-off and applying to some attitudes.

I am referring specifically to the push from the LGBTQ[3] or “progressive” coalition to “normalize” that lifestyle considered sin by many in the conservative/historic position. This “push” is to have stricken from all Methodist doctrines any reference to homosexuality being incompatible with Christian teaching. 

The merits of any such push aside, the vitriol and just plain meanness emanating from both sides of this tiresome argument is nauseatingly less than Christian.  Name calling and demonizing are hardly what Christ wanted for His bride, the church.

So, let me play Gamaliel, and speak to the rulers of today’s organizations:  Let it go! 

If God is really behind what those of the Reconciling push are pushing, you don’t want to be found a stumbling block!  If the pushers are wrong, you don’t have to defend the kingdom with clever political machinations.  The Father is well-able to speak for Himself…and He will!  The only thing at stake here is money and buildings; do you really think that matters to God?   If you do, you’re making the same mistake as the Sanhedrin.

Peter learned[4] to put away his sword; and those who fancy themselves as protectors of the Methodist Church and conservative values, ought to do likewise, putting-away the mean-spirited demonizing of those who think differently.  When we do that we only sling mud on the wedding dress of the Bride of Christ and handcuff the real Gospel.

For You Today

Loving others means proclaiming God’s Good News; you can do that…and you can leave what others do about it to them…keep on preaching, saints!

[1] Title Image:  By Klaus with K (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Acts 5:39 Paraphrase mine
[3] Acronym for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer
[4] John 18:11

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