According to a spokesman for the Vatican, up to 100,000 Christians are killed each year around the world. Many of them come into conflict with local, regional, or national laws that impact their right to be Christians. If this is true, then it means that courageous men and women are still being martyred globally, for the faith that we commonly share. That is a very sobering thought, especially in our part of the world where freedom to worship is dearly held as a Constitutional Right, as well as a religious one.
In the Apostle Paul’s time, Christians were usually arrested for breaking local laws. In today’s passage, the Jews of Achaia drum up charges against Paul for not following the proscribed religious and political rules about worship. They try to get him charged with sedition, but providentially, the proconsul threw their charges out of his court. He knew that they were trying to manipulate him to do what they wanted – to stop Paul’s ministry by having him incarcerated. Gallio, however, rejected the charges and appears to have made his decision based upon what we practice today: the separation of Church and State.
As Christianity wanes in Western society, there may come a time when Christ’s followers will find that their biblical beliefs come into conflict with civil law. If that moment ever occurs, the question which we as Christians will be faced with is this: do we follow the Law or the Lord?
Questions for personal reflection
What do I think about the Vatican statement? How do my Christian beliefs differ from those who are being persecuted and martyred for Christ in other places?
Prayers: Lord Jesus, remind us about the true cost of our faith and the conflicts that other Christians are facing each day around the world. Keep us from sustaining a cozy faith that doesn’t inconvenience us; instead grant us the courage to hold onto and live a real faith that may be constantly challenged by those around us. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask a question or comment about today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest rural drawings called “Covered Bridge.” If you would like to view a larger version of the drawing, please click on the following link: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7374/8779456370_b02c5109a2_b.jpg