Free Speech And God
Large crowds gathered. Speakers shouted out their message. Arrests were made, and the leaders imprisoned. Sounds like the latest report on ABC news from the streets of our cities, but it’s actually a description of a powerful, rising movement fueled by preachers in Jerusalem. They shouted to the crowds that they and their religious leaders had crucified Jesus, but then He rose from the dead. Incredibly, this risen Savior was not calling for vengeance and judgment, but offering forgiveness.
The religious leaders responded by trying to shut down the Apostle’s free speech and the freedom of the people to decide for themselves about Jesus.
When it comes to these First Amendment Rights, take a look at whose side God is on as demonstrated by his response to the arrest of Peter and John by the Sanhedrin.
“Now when the High Priest and those with him arrived, they summoned the Sanhedrin (the entire Council of the Elders representing the Sons of Israel), and they sent to the prison to bring up Peter and John. When the officers arrived, they did not find them.
So they returned to the Sanhedrin and reported, ‘We found the prison completely locked up and secure, the guards standing at the doors. But when we opened the doors, no one was inside.’ On hearing this report, the Captain of the Temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss. Where would all this lead?
Then someone reported, ‘Look, the men you put in jail are standing in the Temple teaching the people.’ Then the Captain of the guard with his officers went and apprehended Peter and John again, careful not to use force because they feared getting stoned by the people.” - Acts 5:21-26
I love God’s sense of humor in this passage as he releases his children but leaves all the doors locked and the guards still standing there guarding an empty cell. Note also that the arresting officers were careful not to stir further violence by not using excessive force in the arrest.
LORD, thanks for showing me through this episode that religious and governmental officials have been trying to shut down public, free discussions on faith for a long time. Help me to clearly communicate that there is salvation only in the Name of Jesus, but that you allow freedom for individuals to decide for themselves how they will respond. Help us as Americans to realize how precious our freedom of religion and freedom of speech is.
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