Earthly vs Heavenly Authority, a story!
Behold the man!
John 19:5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
The One who suffered and died for you, calls you to look upon Him again today!
Behold, the man Christ Jesus, risen now from the dead, King of kings, and Lord of lords!
19: 14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Reminds me of a missionary story, where I was trying to pioneer a church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. One of the ministries we did, was to run an alcohol/drug rehabilitation program, that involved visiting the two local prisons each week. During this prison outreach, I was introduced to a group, that had applied to the City of Ottawa, for an abandoned building, to be used as a carpentry shop. They had been awarded a contract to rebuild historic window and door frames from the government, and the contract employed 22 ex-convicts for a minimum of 2 years. I looked through their proposal, and it was well thought out. The cost to incarcerate a man at that time, was around $90,000.00 tax payer dollars, and so the roughly 2million dollar per year saving to the Canadian taxpayer, whereby criminals became law abiding, taxpaying citizens, in my mind far offset the 2 million dollar value of the condemned building, slotted for demolition. This group had mobilized an army of volunteers to remodel this facility, and felt that with the donations of supplies and labor they had in writing, they could do the proposed $2.2 million dollar remodel required for occupancy, for $400,000.00.
Their proposal was categorically rejected by the city council, and these hard working men, who in my opinion were not asking for a hand out, but a hand up, had this door of opportunity slammed in their face.
Now, if they were schemers and scammers, I would have gently walked past their need, but after meeting with them, and much prayer, I felt that they had an honest chance to better themselves, and offer hope, to many ex-cons who wanted to serve Jesus, and leave their life of crime. They needed a spokesperson, and I can preach.
I can also be a warrior for the oppressed.
So, I was invited to speak for them at the next City Council meeting, and I was given five minutes to speak.
Typical of my pastor’s schedule, I was running hard, and showed up at the council meeting five minutes before the session was scheduled to begin.
I had seen the proposal submitted to the city, but had not seen the 200 page response by the city government. I was feeling overwhelmed, as we signed into the council meeting. The court clerk asked me if I had any supporting documentation to submit to council, before I was called to speak, and I glanced in my folder and noticed a poster that we had made for our youth group, to place inside their lockers. It was a simple poster, printed on a picture of a highway that read:
Heaven or Hell?
Matt 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Which road are you on?
So, without thinking, I handed this poster to the court clerk, who quickly photocopied it, and handed it to the long row of city councilors.
While I awaited my turn to speak, one of the prison reform guys directed my attention to the final pages of the City document, the section entitled: ‘In Conclusion’
It read something like:” It is the opinion of this council that this request be denied, as it makes no contribution to the City Budget. It appears to be another charitable cause, similar to the snowsuit fund, or the food bank, that asked for a little space for a little while, some years ago, but that has been using City resources now for several years, unable to contribute financially.’
Thank God for the Holy Spirit!
So, it was time to speak, and my words went something like this:
‘Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I consider it an honour to speak to you today, regarding this proposal from this prison reform group. I have read their proposal, and it appears to me well thought out, and in the best interests of the citizens of Ottawa for several reasons:
Financially it is sound. Due to the high rate of recidivism back into the prison system, an ex-convict in this City, has difficulty finding legitimate employment, and often, statistically falls back into a life of crime, simply because that is all they know to do. In this program they are given a job, accountability, and training to be able to make a clean break with the prison system, which humanly speaking is wonderful.
It also seems that should the 22 men immediately employed in this program, from the prison system stay out of prison, the tax savings to the Canadian public alone, properly documented, should look good on ones political portfolio.
Yet, I am a man of God, and in front of you, you have the words of Jesus. In this we find our individual responsibility to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner. Surely, each of us are individually responsible to these verses, but it would appear to me, that the blessing of God would fall not just on individuals, but to any organization or government structure that did so also.
In your concluding notes, you mention the food bank, and the snowsuit fund as two entities that do not contribute to the city’s budget, and now this, a program to help prisoners find a better life. Sure looks like feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner to me.
The question then to me appears clear: Council, what are you going to do with this proposal: Obey God, and see this city get blessed, or will you be like Pilate, and wash your hands, and crucify my Lord all over again?”
I sat down, but,the mayor jumped up, red in the face, and said: ’I demand a vote!’
They voted it down, and opposed it.
Another councilor said; “I appeal this vote, as we do not have a full quorum!’
Got pretty hot in that room for a minute!
We were asked to leave, and it looked like we lost.
Yet, the lady councilor came out of chambers and told us: ‘All is not lost, I have demanded a revote, when council resits next week. We have 4 councillors out, and it could swing the vote.’
Sure enough, the following week, it was remotioned and voted upon,and got approved.
That group went on to make a public eyesore, a prison reform project, and I hope they did well.
The mayor on the revote, resigned from office!
I prayed for him, and had the opportunity to bless him publically at a later date, at another government function, but that is another story.
Here is the moral of the story for all you theologians out there, wondering about the roles and responsibilities of the various authority structures defined Biblically according to the ascension gifts of our Lord Jesus Christ: (apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and teachers), versus earthly governments (Rom 13:1-5, 1Tim 2:1-5)
As ministers, we are to obey the laws of the land, and to be good citizens. Yet, there is a higher law than any human law, and that is the Word of God. I believe that even as earthly governments have the authority to correct a minister that is breaking a clear violation of God’s law and man’s (policeman giving a speeding ticket etc) even so a five-fold ministry gift has the authority of God, to correct any government institution violating the written word of God.
The wisdom of the ages is always: When do we say, vs when do we just pray?
Right now, let’s pray:
‘Father, we love you, and thank you for your goodness, love, grace and truth. May my life align with Your word, described in 1 Tim 3:1-7. When earthly authority is in error, show me when to pray, and when to say what needs to be corrected, in Your name I pray Lord Jesus, Amen’