Policing in a Mob World–message 01.25.2015

Last Sunday and next, I am away from my responsibilities at Plymouth Congregational Church of Racine and arranged for my friend Rev. Bill Slater, a former missionary to Liberia and a blogger with an apologetics ministry, to preach in the interim.

I do like to keep up with the sermon series we began back in August entitled Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles so that those of you who like to read my messages won’t have any gaps.  Today, I will do a short devotional on the preaching passage (Acts 5:25-26) and there will be no audio of this message.

Acts 5: 25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

In the flow of the book of Acts, we’ve seen this new institution, the Church, be formed and become the Pure Church, the Powerful Church, the Growing Church and yes, also the Persecuted Church.  We find the disciples Peter and John freed from prison in a divine jailbreak involving an angel’s letting them out so they could resume preaching the Good News.

So there they are, in the temple courts and what are they doing?  Teaching the people–what they were told not to do!  Most people after a jailbreak would probably go into hiding, like in Home Alone 2 when Harry and Marv appear for the first time after escaping out of prison.  They’re in the back of a fish truck.

    • Harry: Here we are, Marv. New York City, the Land of Opportunity. [Takes a deep breath] Smell that?
    • Marv: [Takes a deep breath] Yeah.
    • Harry: Know what that is?
    • Marv: Fish.
    • Harry: It’s freedom.
    • Marv: No, it’s fish.
    • Harry: It’s freedom, and it’s money.
    • Marv: Okay, okay, it’s freedom.
    • Harry:: Come on, let’s get out of here before someone sees us.
    • Marv: And it’s fish.

They didn’t want anyone to see them because they’d done wrong things to end up in prison and their escape from prison was criminal too.

The apostles experienced something totally different.  Jailed for merely preaching the Good News, freed by angel so they could get back to work, they did not go into hiding.  They went public!

looting.jpgHere is the distinction between civil disobedience and criminal activity: civil disobedience involves disobeying authority without violence to do what was never morally wrong in the first place.

I cannot help but think back over all the protests and looting that occurred in Ferguson, MO in the weeks that followed the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager who robbed a convenience store and resisted arrest with intimidation/force and consequently ended up being shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson.  This event sparked weeks of riots, looting, and protests.

The key to distinguishing civil disobedience and plain old disobedience/criminal activity is this: Moral authority.  Those engaging in civil disobedience may not have the power, but they have the moral standing with God and with the moral code which undergirds our laws.  Everyone else disobeying is just a lawbreaker.

Without the moral authority, the only thing one has is brute force, what King George the VI described as the “primitive doctrine that might is right.”

Ironically in our passage today, in verse 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

The same people who wouldn’t dare to join the apostles back in verse 13, those who feared the authorities …were now feared BY the authorities… who worried these same people would stone them.  People lacking courage to join the apostles were perceived to have enough courage that they’d use force against the authorities.

Policing with a moral code is different than policing in a mob world where the doctrine is “might is right.”

Believing somehow that IF you’ve got the raw power, THEN you can claim the moral high ground–that’s the mob world!.  This notion submits us all to terror, to violence, and to brutality.  There is no moral high ground in any of this mob world.

Moral high ground does not steal, loot, riot, or intentionally use physical means to justify or prove one’s cause.  Moral high ground comes from God.

This is why the apostles willingly went back into custody to stand before the Sanhedrin.  They had the moral high ground and knew that Jesus had said this would happen to those who follow Him.

Mark 13:9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

So where are you today?  Are you standing on moral high ground?  Are you afraid of the mob?  Are you afraid of authorities?  Do you not want to share the Gospel out of fear of what people might say about you?  Are you willing to claim the moral high ground by following Christ or do you still hold to the primitive doctrine of “might is right?”  Jesus promised to give words to say through His Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11).  Are you prepared to stand firm until the end and be saved?

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on January 28, 2015

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