Acts chapter 4
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.
“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
Some things never change. Today, as it was in the first century church, we as Christians still face pressure from non-believers and non-Christian religious groups to keep quiet about our faith in Jesus Christ. At some point, I’d bet nearly all of us have heard, or been told, that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves. Not only does this go directly against the Great Commission, it’s also somewhat hypocritical of our detractors because they certainly don’t keep THEIR beliefs to themselves.
Let’s look at the ongoing debate over over public prayer. Secular groups have argued that allowing prayer at large gatherings such as high school football games or in government buildings is a violation of our constitution’s first amendment provisions regarding separation of church and state. But the first amendment also prohibits the passage of any law that impedes the free exercise of religion, which as far as I’m concerned, should guarantee the right to pray in public places, in government buildings, and at school functions.
This issue has found its way into the courts multiple times and it’s led to somewhat of a compromise aimed at appeasing both Christians and non-believers alike. Instead of prayer, we now observe something called a “moment of silence.” Don’t be fooled. This moment of silence we see being observed at large gatherings is an illusion created to give the appearance that Christian beliefs are being respected. In reality, it is a very deceptive way of silencing Christians.
Think about this. Prayer is how we communicate with God. And yes, you can pray to yourself in your thoughts. We do pray silently at times. And there are times when silence is called for so that the Holy Spirit can do His work in the heart of a believer or in the heart of someone who has just heard the gospel for perhaps the first time in his or her life. But the voices of praying Christians need to be heard. You never know when someone might be standing next to you who needs the assurance of God’s presence. We can do our part to provide that assurance by making our voices heard when we pray to God.
A few years ago, while I was still working at Delta Airlines, we lost two of our mechanics within a very short period of time. One died of cancer, the other in a small plane crash. At the next quarterly meeting, our general manager called for “a moment of silence”. Okay, it was a nice gesture that was intended to honor their memory. But looking back and reflecting on that moment, it seems so empty. In a moment of silence, who are you talking to? The answer is………no one. We’re supposed to honor God above all else, but in a moment of silence, is God really being honored? Is it God honoring to stand for a few moments while saying or thinking about nothing. When that general manager called for a moment of silence, I hope someone, at the very least, offered a silent prayer. I know I didn’t. That was well before I committed my life to Jesus Christ. I just sat there and said nothing and thought nothing for a few moments. In my opinion, the real objective of those who offered up this compromise, this “moment of silence” in lieu of audible prayers, is to silence Christian voices while at the same time directing the minds of the unsaved away from God. While the moment of silence might seem like a nice gesture, it will never be a substitute for the voices of Christians raising their prayers up to God.
In chapter 5 of Acts, Peter responded to the council after he and the other Apostles had been freed from prison by the Angel of The Lord:
“Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
Peter and the Apostles refused to be silenced. They continued preaching the gospel and talking openly about Jesus Christ until the day they died. There is a lesson there for all of us.