A disconcerting first…

A 47 year old American woman was sentenced to prison five days ago. Here crime? It wasn’t a mass shooting, or failing to pay unpaid parking fees, or neglecting a child. She was put in prison for believing that marriage is between one man and one woman (read more here). No matter what side of that debate you find yourself, this news should cause you great concern (think freedom of conscience and religious liberties). If you are a Christian who affirms God’s designs for marriage and sexuality it should cause you even greater concern. Watch out, this move signals a new trend into uncharted waters in which the Christian minority in the West, living in an increasingly anti-Christian climate, will be called to account as to where their highest allegiance lies.

While at the outset this case signals woe and concern, it is more complicated than it appears (especially because it involves American culture and politics). Firstly, there is the dynamic of the case. Kim Davis, a clerk responsible for issuing marriage licences in her local county, has refused to issue licences to both homosexual and heterosexual applicants since the Supreme Court single-handedly legalized same sex unions, citing religious beliefs as her reason. She was jailed for contempt of court because she failed to heed the judge’s demands of complying with the law and beginning to reissue licences. Such a move appears to be a larger protest with wider aims than her local county is concerned. Had she simply refused to comply in issuing a licence to a same sex couple her religious argument may have held greater sway. Still, she may have faced prison time, or perhaps more appropriately, simply been dismissed from her position (which in itself would have been sad but more just). However, as an elected official she has to be defeated in an election or impeached to lose her position. This is why her case is such a challenge to the government, because she cannot simply be dismissed and has the opportunity to become a martyr for the numerous challenges to the recent US court decision.

Her apparent willingness to suffer a losing legal battle for the sake of Christ and Christians generally, is noble, it is standing for what she believes regardless of the consequences. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10, ESV). At the time of her sentencing Davis said, “I promised to love Him [Jesus] with all my heart, mind and soul,” and she appears to have made good on that promise. Though she may lose much, including her job, she spoke of standing upon “God’s law” and not upon the ruling of the Supreme Court when it differed from Scripture. Here she is leaning upon what Jesus taught in Mark 12:17, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are Gods,” and also “you cannot serve both God and money” (Mk 12:17).

In other words, you cannot serve both God and the US government, particularly when the government (on this point) is acting contrary to what you know Scripture teaches.

Thankfully today she was released from prison today, the judge hoping he had taught her a lesson. As she returns to work, which court will she be guilty of standing in contempt of, God’s or the US government?

To be sure there are many pressing issues I could have chosen to write on, one of which being the American same-sex debate. I could have also rightly highlighted the refugee crisis, the trafficking of women and children in the sex trade, or assisted dying [suicide]. All of these would be valid moral and social issues to comment upon. I suppose I chose to write upon this because when I read it I thought, given the trajectory the West has set itself upon, “this could very easily be myself [as a public Christian leader], or someone from my congregation [a Christian school teacher[1]].” This is a litmus test that could determine whether Christians in countries like the USA, Canada and England, which continue down a path of licentiousness, will simply be marginalized and ridiculed for following Christ or whether they will actually be persecuted. A jail sentence for following Jesus was a wake-up call for me.

May we pray for Kim Davis and all those Christians, especially public officials and employees, who face persecution and marginalization, that they may stand firm in their faith (1 Cor 16:13). Pray that as they stand firm they may do so in love (v.14) so that they may heap burning coals on their enemies heads (Ro 12:20). Let us pray for governments and engage with elected officials, that they may be respectful of Christian values. Let us know the facts and be biblically and intelligently informed for the battle.

For nearly 300 years Christianity has enjoyed a supremacy in the West in which persecution and marginalization was a foreign experience.

This has not always been the case, neither in English history, nor the history of the Church. May we learn from those who have gone before us and who likewise suffer for the faith around the world each day, and like the persecuted saints throughout the ages, may we be found faithful, to Christ’s honour and the Church’s witness. Amen.

Pastor Chris

[1] This will especially become the case as governments and school boards make it mandatory for teachers and staff to promote immoral curriculum which will be against a Christian’s belief.

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