Acts 4:1-22; Deuteronomy 19-20; Job 13
The phrase “speaking truth to power” has almost become a cliché these days. Sometimes you hear people in power say terrible things and they proclaim that all they are doing is that speaking truth to power thing. When Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in Russia, he not only spoke truth to power, he suffered for his writing, but he also alerted the world to the horror of the Russian gulags. “The Gulag Archipelago” has been called “the most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be levied in modern times” and it helped bring about the fall of Communist Russia. Having been forbidden to write, he said, with this book, “I cannot help but speak about what I’ve seen and heard.”
As the church grew in those days after Pentecost, the religious leaders had a problem. The disciples were preaching about Jesus as being alive. They were performing miracles in the name of Jesus. They reminded people that each of them individually, and as part of the nation of Israel, had put Jesus to death. They talked about the resurrection of Jesus as proof that He was God’s Messiah. This should have been the cue for a field trip to the grave to show everyone the body. Ever wonder why they didn’t take that trip? Instead, the held a committee meeting to admonish the disciples. “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:18-20)
The truth of the resurrection destroyed the power structure of the Jews. It was the power structure that determined that Jesus was a threat to the survival of the nation. The unintended prophetic comment of Caiaphas was that it was better for one man to die so that the nation could be saved speaks volumes about the motivation of the power structure. It was the power structure that convicted Jesus of blasphemy in the Sanhedrin’s kangaroo court conviction, and then transferred that charge to insurrection and rebellion to the Roman authorities. If the power structure of the Jews was correct, the crucifixion should have ended any of the problems that a would-be Messiah might have been produced. While the disciples initially scattered like roaches when Jesus was crucified, they gathered together and suddenly became a powerful force in Jerusalem and later around the whole world. What’s worse for the power structure was that these disciples proclaimed that their power came because God raised Jesus from the dead. If that story was true, and obviously I believe that it is, then the resurrection of Jesus by the hand of God puts to lie everything that the power structure believed and worked for. Rather than investigating the claim, they sought to suppress the proclamation of the name of Jesus.
America’s freedoms have allowed a multi-cultural society to flourish. As it has flourished there has been a subtle shift in the way those in power have viewed Christians. No longer are Christians in power, which is probably a good thing considering our history. Where once Christians who went to church on Sunday and didn’t let it affect their lives the rest of the week were called hypocrites; now they are considered model Christians in a world where a lawyer can use the argument that the only legitimate functions of a church happen within the four walls. People who seek to live for Christ every day are seen as fanatics to be shunned. Where those in power used to talk about freedom of religion, which included a lot of different aspects of our faith, we are slowly evolving to a country that honors freedom of worship – confining our religious practices to certain places and times. We can, as Christians, sit back and accept our freedom of worship, or we can fight back against the powers that would seek to limit us. We can fight back by living out our faith each day, proclaiming the gospel in words and proclaiming the gospel in deeds. Let us go feed the hungry and care for the poor. Let us care for the widows and orphans, and by extension all single mothers. Let us care for the sick and those in prison. And let us do all of that in the name of Jesus.
Oh Lord, at one time our faith was part of the power structure, but we weren’t faithful to You in using it. Now, the power structure is slowly seeking to shut down our faith activities. Help me to live my faith daily. Help me to be an example of what it means to live for You. Forgive me for getting lost in my own desires and help me to be obedient to Your call each and every day.