Years ago, my family and I visited Williamsburg, Virginia, and watched a lively reenactment of the time a colonial Baptist pastor refused to pay the licensing fee required by the British government for anyone wanting to preach.
In the mind of that Baptist pastor, paying England for the privilege of preaching was tantamount to giving the king and his minions control over what God told him to say.
He wouldn’t do that, and the government sent troops to arrest him and carry him away. That was the scene the actors reenacted.
While we were still talking about that scene, my children happened on the stocks that were used, in colonial days, to punish minor infractions against the law. You remember: they placed your hands and head through the holes, and you just stood there, helpless and miserable, while passers-by mocked you, or threw things at you.
Well, of course, my children did what children do: they ran over and stuck their heads and hands through the holes. My youngest daughter immediately began to imitate those hoarse sounds the prisoners must have made after having their necks through the hole for an hour or so.
We laughed, enjoying the scene – until we realized that, in fact, my daughter wasn’t playing a part. She was too short for her neck to fit comfortably in the hole, and she really was choking. Those hoarse gasps were her efforts to get enough air to breathe and call for help.
Of course, we quickly got her out of there, but I’ll never forget the look on her face, or the sounds she was making, as she tried so hard to alert us to the real danger she was in for those few seconds.
I think about that, as I visit with pastors all over the country about what’s going on in churches across America today. More and more, certain elements in our government, urged on by the ACLU (America Civil Liberties Union) and other organizations, are trying to put the Church in the stocks … holding it up to ridicule and derision, while leaving it helpless and silent before its foes.
Some of the churches – indeed, some of your churches – are trying to alert the rest of us to the danger. But in too many corners of the Kingdom, Christians are oblivious to the voice of the Church being gradually choked out right in front of us.
Indeed, many are more aggravated at the prospect of their pastor bringing up a "political" topic than they are outraged by our government’s insidious encroachments on church autonomy.
Whatever your concerns, I hope you’ll make it a point, as you follow the news and what’s happening in your community, to be more alert than I was that morning in Williamsburg. Pray for God’s church in America … for the courage of our pastors, the commitment of our fellow believers, and the ability of all of us to see – and respond to – the very real danger right before our eyes.
"Eternal vigilance," abolitionist Wendell Phillips said, "is the price of liberty." Let us resolve to pay the price.
John 15:5 Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.