Chick-fil-A was almost denied the right to sell their sandwiches at Denver’s Airport because their President said he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage. Members of the city council objected to that. It looks as though they will back down, but the situation is not new. It is nearly 2000 years old. The city council in Jerusalem during the earliest days of the church tried to shut them down, too – not what they were doing, but what they were saying. During the first few weeks of the church, they caused quite a public commotion. Much of it had to do with miraculous healings the Lord accomplished through them. A lot of it had to do with some of their amazing acts of generosity to the poor. Great mobs of people came to see and hear what would happen next. And the city council (known as the Sanhedrin, led by the High Priest) was not happy about it. After one public healing, they arrested the church leaders (the Apostles).
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” – Acts 4:16–17 (NIV84)
Next time they arrested the Apostles, they said:
“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” Acts 5:28a (NIV84)
They didn’t tell them to stop doing the healings or taking care of the poor; they told them to stop saying, “Jesus!” The same struggle goes on today. Christians are not told to shut down their hospitals, soup kitchens, or disaster relief ministries. They are told to shut up about Jesus.
Years ago, the churches in my town came together to cooperate in an outreach to the poor and homeless. The community at large quickly relied upon the organization they formed to address the problems of that growing population. Soon the city council voted to support the work financially. Things changed. Today, that agency, still named for its “united outreach” has a policy that forbids its volunteers and workers from mentioning Jesus.
You can pretty much do whatever you want in the Name of Jesus, as long as you don’t tell people about Jesus. Maybe you’ve seen this at work. Navy Chaplain, Wes Modder, experienced it when he was forbidden to minister or even talk to his unit according to his Christian beliefs.
God arranged a jailbreak for the Apostles, not so they could make a clean getaway, but so they go back and tell people about Jesus.
“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” – Acts 5:20 (NIV84)
The “full message of this new life” is this: new, eternal life is given freely to anyone who comes to believe that Jesus is God and Savior.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. – John 5:24 (NIV84)
Pass it on. Don’t forget to say, “Jesus!”