Acts 16:35-39 (NIV)
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
We live in strange times. This weekend on Saturday Night Live, they did a spoof on the movie “DJango Unchained.” The sketch was called “DJesus Uncrossed” in which Jesus grabs his guns and takes his revenge out on the Romans – Quentin Tarnatino style.
ABC has a TV show called “Good Christian Bi*****.” Prayer’s been gone from public schools for a long time. Next to disappear will be the phrase “under God” from the pledge. Christian companies, like Mardell’s/Hobby Lobby face million-dollar-a-day penalties for their refusal to pay for abortifacients. Take a stand for righteousness and you’ll quickly be branded a “hater” or “bigot” or “backwards.” It is open season on Christians.
And yet, we shouldn’t be surprised – especially since Jesus warned us. “All men will hate you because of me …” he told his disciples (Matthew 10:22, NIV).
Jesus taught us we should “turn the other cheek” when someone strikes us. If they take our cloak, we should give our tunic as well (see Luke 6:29). In other words, we aren’t to retaliate to violence with violence. No longer is “an eye for an eye” our motto. Jesus forgave those who perpetrated violence on him.
But we’re NOT told we have to remain silent. While not responding in kind, we can draw attention to injustice. We are allowed to press for our rights. Many in position of Paul and Silas might have simply left quietly – happy to get out of jail. But their rights as Roman citizens had been openly and egregiously violated. Mob rule had replaced law and order. Paul and Silas wanted their names cleared AND the injustice publicized.
Our world is a better place because of the Barman Confession: German pastors who came together to chronicle the illegal actions of the Nazis against the church. Our world is a better place because Dr. King wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” – instead of just leaving town quietly.
The “persecution” we face today is nothing in comparison. But if you can’t see dark storm clouds on the American horizon, then you’re just not looking – and not taking to heart Jesus’ warning. Know your responsibility as a disciple of Jesus…and your rights as a citizen of this country.