“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Abraham Lincoln
Gamaliel addressed the Sanhedrin council in Acts 5 with the following profound statement during a discussion of what action to take with Peter and John who refused to obey their demand to stop preaching about Jesus Christ.
38 And now I say to you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing:
39 But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God.
His counsel presented them with two possible outcomes:
- If they were obeying men then the work will collapse.
- If they were obeying God then the work cannot be stopped.
While our country descends into moral bankruptcy, should the Christian majority fear persecution?
Is our country as bad as Roman-occupied Israel during the first century? The Romans rulers were a decadent class with minimal morals. The following were staples of their society:
- Vomitoriums – buildings to accommodate the aftermath of their gluttonous, all-you-can-eat appetites.
- Bath houses – buildings to accommodate homosexual’s appetites for boys
- Coliseum – entertainment derived from watching men fight men, men fight animals, and ship battles
- Imperialism – Roman expansion and occupation of a geographic region
- Slavery – captives were forced to provide manual labor
The United States is still a free country with freedom of worship, free markets, and freedom of speech. We are to obey man’s laws unless they violate God’s laws. When we are ordered to disobey God’s laws then conflict and tension arise. Anything not done in faith is a sin.
Our country has a long history of civil disobedience:
- The founding fathers disobeyed the King of England when they signed the Declaration of Independence
- Dred Scott left a slave state in order to declare his freedom in a non-slave state.
- Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King disobeyed Jim Crow laws and authorities to overturn segregation and unconstitutional laws.
- Edward Snowden committed treason by taking 10’s of thousands of NSA documents to China in order to expose unconstitutional privacy violations.
- Speakeasy operators violated Prohibition until it was repealed by a Constitutional amendment.
- The 1960’s spawned a generation of disobedience concerning the Vietnam War.
Civil disobedience is required when believers are asked to violate God’s laws in order to obey Man’s laws. The consequences can be devastating but needed due to the impact to future generations. When we think past our own generation then sometimes we have to sacrifice our comfort for our children.
Persecution of Christians is in the future. The question is no longer “if” but “when”. The Christian churches in Russian and China are models to study. In Russia, the churches were centralized with a few leaders meeting with large groups in church buildings. When the persecution came the leaders were arrested and the church dissolved due to their dependence on the leaders. In China, the churches were decentralized via small groups meeting in homes instead of church buildings. When the persecution came the leaders were unidentified and churches were indistinguishable from family gatherings in homes. The church flourished because of their untrackable activities.
What will happen in your church when the persecution comes? Will it die or thrive? The only sustainable way to not only survive but thrive during the coming persecution is to decentralize the church by organizing small groups meeting in homes. This requires cultivating home group leaders that can operate independently if needed. The apostolic leaders will equip, strengthen, and encourage the home groups. However, the apostolic leaders must be willing to set an example for civil disobedience which could lead to arrest and prison time.
The leaders in the book of Acts were beaten, arrested, and jailed, but the Church grew and thrived. The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians letters while in prison, but there is a curious absence of urgency for his quick release from prison. Leaders need to pour out their lives to equip the Saints because during persecution the Church should grow during their absence.