At the latest LWML convention in Minot, we had a wonderful Bible study/history lesson/geography lesson/from Pastor Adam Moline who was the senior counselor. The study was on the same text from Philippians chapter 2 which was the convention theme, “lift High the Name of Jesus”. Moline gave us a wonderful history of Philippi and how Paul got there, and what he did when he got there. You can read about it in Acts chapter 16. Most people remember the story from Sunday school when a woman who had a spirit of divination followed Paul and Silas, and kept yelling out that they had come to preach in the name of the most high God. Paul finally got angry, chased the demon out of her, and her owners got angry because they were losing business. They brought them before city officials, the magistrates and they said that their religion was basically elicit. They said something to the effect that Paul and Silas were preaching things that were advocating customs unlawful for Romans to practice. At that point the magistrate ordered Paul and Silas to be stripped and beaten with rods and then thrown in jail and placed in stocks. Now at this point the story takes on for me an absolutely fascinating turn.
Paul is a Roman citizen and so is Silas. When they were first brought before the magistrates, Paul and Silas could have simply said “we are Roman citizens” and everything would’ve changed. They would have been given due process; they would not have been thrown in prison; they would not have been in stocks; and they certainly would not of been beaten with rods. The fact that Paul says nothing is what makes this is a fascinating story. Paul waits until all the drama of the earthquake and the non-escaping prisoners and the jailer trying to commit suicide in the morning light and the baptism of the families and a representative from the magistrates coming and telling them to just leave town suddenly he declares he is a Roman citizen and scares the heck out of everybody.
At the convention there was a question about this and I responded that this was a blatantly political act. Paul is making a political statement here that is calculated to scare the death out of the local authorities. This is calculated to add protection to those new converts, to Lydia the dealer in purple dye, and the families of the jailers and others who have been baptized. I said we are so beaten down in this country to think that we as Christians have nothing to say about politics, or governmental affairs, or rights as Christians and that all of that should be left out of the marketplace of ideas. We have sold our birthright of protection under the Constitution for a mess of pottage and we tell people that our religious values have nothing to say about politics and it is a lie. We better get used to the idea that we need to enter in the political realm because the political realm is entering into the religious.
At that point at the convention another interesting thing happened. There was a smattering of applause which quickly died out that showed me that we are still cowed by the idea of the separation of church and state and that it makes it impossible for us to comment upon anything political either in the church, in church gatherings, or in our personal life and it’s nonsense.