There is a stretch of road right before our church that is well-patrolled by the police. You can probably see where this is heading. I was driving in a 40 mph zone, and I was going... faster than 40. Apparently the officer had been after me for a while when I pulled onto the actual street where our church is. I finally see his lights and pull over.
He probably didn't anticipate a Sunday morning chase. I didn't expect to be chased for a couple of miles. Anyway, there we were... the officer asking me if I knew why he stopped me. Me suggesting it was because I had broken a law. Him confirming my suspicions and giving me raw data. He went back to his car as fellow church members drove by me... now definitely late for choir practice. Becky is taking pictures in her mirror and texting her friends.
The officer comes back, hands me my license, and I say, "In my defense, my wife was running late this morning and I was trying to get her to choir practice on time." Yes... I played the Jesus card while throwing my chuckling wife under the patrol car. He gave a knowing laugh and said, "Just watch your speed from now on." No ticket that day. We just went on to church.
But on the other side of the world, there were Christians who were breaking the law, not by speeding, but simply by worshiping God at their church. The law enforcement officers showed up and dispersed the gathering, taking some of the leaders to jail. Families were broken up. And not for breaking a good law, but for obeying God.
My story is somewhat humorous, until you think of the deeper truth. The government exists to punish evil doers and protect the innocent. I was stopped by a policeman doing his job. Our persecuted brothers and sisters are being stopped by people overstepping their authority. The apostle Peter put it this way...
Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.Honor the Emperor. Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. (1 Peter 2:13-20)
My Sunday morning should have been interrupted. Theirs should not be. But God help us if we are more bent out of shape for being stopped when we are wrong than are those who are stopped without doing wrong?
That morning, I thought that I may be receiving a well-deserved speeding ticket, but hoped he would let me ride. He let me ride. I remember driving away thinking about how much different it is for my brothers and sisters in communist countries to see the police roll up on a Sunday morning. May I never forget, and may I live a life that keeps me from suffering for doing wrong, and keeps me in a situation where I suffer for doing right.
Today, don't speed to church. But get there. Because it is a blessing to freely go, and you never know when that freedom will be gone.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.