Christians and the Law

ishot_55Today’s Scripture: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter. 2:13)

Last weekend, there was an annual festival being held in the town of Morganton which is held every year in September.  This festival draws around 50,000 people or so, and with the crowds that come, you see all kinds of people.  A Youtube video began circulating on social media that portrayed three men who were in a faceoff with city officials and local officers over their alleged right to carry a large cross, wear cardboard signs, and distribute Christian literature.  (See the video at the bottom of this post.)  In the video, city officials were informing the men of their violation of a city ordinance which restricted their activity to a specified area.  They were told that they would have been welcome to have their own booth if they would have put up the required fee.  The men claimed that they had a constitutional right to demonstrate, and that their liberty was being infringed upon.  Of course, this set off a firestorm on Facebook as many claimed that the men were being persecuted for their faith.  I will not attempt to debate the ordinance in this post, but what I do want to address is the behavior of the men in the video and weigh their actions against Scripture.

Is it really fair to say that these men were the targets of unfair persecution?  Under no circumstances were they told that they could not share their faith.  Nor were they asked to leave the premises for simply being believers.  In this case, aggression was not directed toward them, but instead they were clearly the aggressors.  The Apostle Peter instructs believers in 1 Peter 2:13 to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.  He doesn’t ask us to form picket lines and insist on our rights.  He says that we are to submit to officials, not for their sake, but for the Lord’s sake.  Thus, these men were in clear violation of more than a city ordinance–they were in violation of their Scriptural responsibility.  Rather than advancing the gospel and the cause of Christ, they hindered it.  Think of it this way.  Can you imagine those first century Christians forming picket lines and insisting on their rights as they were being marched to their deaths in the Roman coliseum?  Consider the example of Perpetua, a young Christian girl who was martyred for her faith in Christ.  Upon being given the choice to recant Christ and worship the emperor, she humbly refused to do so and was led away to her death in the arena.  She didn’t go kicking and screaming and insisting on her individual rights.  She counted it a joy to suffer reproach for Jesus Christ.  Or what about the example of Polycarp, one of the church fathers?  He was condemned to burn at the stake for his faith.  When given one final opportunity to recant, he humbly said, “These 86 years I have served Christ, He never did me any wrong.  How can I blaspheme the King who saved me?”  No word of protest came out of his mouth.  Instead, he simply kept the spotlight on Jesus.

This brings up the question, “When is it ever okay to disobey the ordinance of man?”  We disobey the ordinance of man when the ordinance of man is a clear violation of the ordinance of God.  For example, these martyrs I have previously mentioned disobeyed the government of their day because the law said that they were to worship the emperor.  That would have been idolatry and was a clear undermining of God’s law.  Thus, they humbly went to their deaths.

So, what about the three men at the festival?  In no way were they forbidden to worship Jesus.  In no way were they attacked for simply being Christian.  What they experienced from city officials and police officers (one of whom I know personally) in no way could ever be rightly called persecution.  Perhaps they would like to move to North Korea and carry around a 12-foot cross and street preach.  Then, perhaps, they would find out what persecution is.

In conclusion, believers have a God-given mandate to be upstanding, model citizens.  Our witness to a lost world is more than our signs, our protests, and our constitutional rights.  It involves the very way that we respond to those whom God has placed in government leadership.  Instead of arguing with officials for 20 minutes, they could have humbly submitted in the name of Christ, and their witness would have been much more effective.

6 Comments

  1. Leslie Tudor says:

    I disagree…she had no objections for political information to be handed out. She just didn’t want these men to speak to people or hand out information unless they paid to have a booth or moved to “the free speech zone” outside of the festival. She made the excuse that it was because she didn’t want to have to pick up the papers off the street. She made more of a scene by harassing these men and forcing the poor policemen to deal with this, than these men were causing by sharing their faith. The truth is, she was embarrassed to have these men sharing the good news about Jesus Christ during her festival and she wanted them off the street.

    • Leslie Tudor says:

      In the video, these men made it appear that they were humbly sharing their faith by talking to people, passing out pamphlets, and holding up signs. After posting this comment, I heard from people who actually saw these men at the festival and they said that the men were shouting and so ugly that they were scaring kids. Not at all what they conveyed in the video. So, I was definitely fooled by them, which made me reconsider their motives and my opinion on their actions. If they were sincerely sharing their faith in a caring way, you are right Pastor, they would have respectfully obeyed the police officers who were just trying to do their jobs.

  2. Crystal Hastings says:

    I TOTALLY agree with Pastor Ware!! These people were told ahead of time that they were more than welcome to get a booth & pass out pamphlets or whatever kind of information they would like to & that they would not be allowed to march around but they choose to do what they wanted, knowing it wasn’t going to be allowed!! They were NOT there for the right reasons AT ALL & I though it was very obvious on the video! She was not harassing them at all! If these men were there for the right reasons, they would have a) gotten a booth like was suggested to them in the beginning or b) went to the area they were told they were allowed to be in. But no, they chose to not listen, cause a scene & record it all & post in you tube!

  3. Lynn Webb says:

    I normally do not comment on such matters as this because there are lots of differing opinions and beliefs. However, as a believer I too have been to many large cities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and there is certainly a tactful manner in doing so and in many cases had to obtain permits to peacefully share my faith with others. To argue with law enforcement and city officials over this matter is certainly not in obedience to what the Word of God says in Romans 13 and therefore is a deliberate act of rebellion which is sinful behavior. The gentleman that persisted in knowing if they were going to be placed under arrest causes me to question was he looking for, a lawsuit to be won? In my watching the video I could not help but question the motive of those who were holding their signs and the cross because of their argument with city officials. I admire the chief of police and the other city officials for handling this situation with wisdom and in a calm manner and felt that the proper answer to these individuals would have been, “we are not going to arrest you but we are going to write you a citation for violating the city ordinance and you can present your defense in court.” I do respect that these men were not ashamed of Jesus and were bold enough to stand in the streets in a peaceful manner to plants seeds into the hearts of those who walked by, I just don’t agree with the attitude that presented to be very defensive and forward with their speech. My biggest question is, what was truly their motive?

    • Lynn Webb says:

      In another response to Christians and the Law I would like to voice my free speech to express that even though it is my opinion that these men did not conduct themselves in accordance with the Word of God (Romans 13) I have to also comment that over the years I too have had conversations with Mrs. Jablonski over the issue of sharing the gospel at the festival. I honored her request and I rented a booth where we stamped John 3:16 on horseshoes and gave them away for free to those who came by and this in turn gave us an opportunity to present Jesus’ love for them. In fact, over 30 people made professions of faith at this event.
      However, it has also been my observation that while Mrs. Jablonski has been very opposed in the differing ways of speading the gospel she has certainly not put the same kind of energy in regulating the sales or the consumption of alcohol at the festival, and each year there are more and more arrest for drunk and disruptive behavior, disorderly conduct and people having to be removed from the festival and taken to jail to be held until sober.
      The question I have is what is the bigger issue here? Keeping a family environment and respecting the rights of others to not be subjected to disorderly conduct from intoxication or respecting the rights of others to present the gospel? It is my opinion that the bigger issue here is in protecting and providing the opportunity for individuals and families to peacefully assemle to enjoy a weekend of entertainment without having to expose their children and families in seeing police having to fight and arrest people that have been to the heavily promoted beer and wine garden. I also think if a bartender has to be held responsible for how many drinks he serves to an individual so should the beer and wine garden. What many don’t know is that the beer garden went dry at 10 pm and those who purchased chips in advance were not reimbursed and therefore several people were arrested for disorderly conduct for voicing their free speech in a disorderly fashion that placed them under arrests and charged with a misdeameanor.
      Maybe its time for Christians to take a stance and just simply say that until the Morganton Festival restricts the sales and consumption of alcohol at the beer and wine gardens that we just simply will not go and participate. Maybe it’s time for each pastor to make their plea to the church as well as city government on this issue?

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