Faith in a Hostile Environment

John Telgren


Everyone was excited about the campaign.  A group of students from Harding had come to Brattleboro, Vermont in order to try and reach the community with the Gospel.  There was one problem though.  We did not yet receive the approved permit to do so.  In Brattleboro, one had to apply for and receive a permit to do what we wanted to do.  Needless to say, there was a discussion on what we should do.  There was a distinct possibility that the reason we didn't get a permit had to do with the hostile environment toward religion in that region, especially towards conservative Christianity.   Perhaps they were holding out on us intentionally.  Some of the students did not want to do anything illegal, and were considering the possibility of not doing anything at all.  "I didn't come all this way just to get thrown in jail!" one student said.  Several others were saying, "I didn't come all this way just to sit around.  As Christians, we are supposed to share our faith, and that is what we need to do regardless of what the government says.  We must obey God rather than men!"  The group knew they must respect the governing authorities because God said to.  They also knew that we must obey God when faced with a choice.


The morning we were to start, I called once again.  Thankfully, our permit was ready.  I thanked the woman at the city hall and went down to go pick up our permit so I could photocopy it and give everyone a copy of it as they went out around town. 


As I consider the Moses' parents and Moses' own example of faith in Hebrews eleven, it occurred to me that they both were engaged in what amounted to civil disobedience.  The governing authorities, the law of the land, law enforcement officers and people of this sort have authority.  Many people cite them as though they were the highest authority.  However, there is a higher authority than this.  This authority is higher than parents, higher than the boss at work, and higher than government.  God is the highest and final authority.  He is the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of all creation.  This is why the Apostles, when ordered to speak no more in the name of Christ, replied with, "You judge for yourself, should we heed God or heed you?"  They knew that when faced with a choice, they must obey God rather than men.


Journalists, professors, and other people try to paint activity such as this as underhanded, harmful, and wrong.  The thing I am amazed by is when Christians repeat the same sentiments, that it is somehow dishonorable to disobey civil authority in order to obey God.  I am even more amazed at Christians that believe it is dishonorable to share the Gospel even when it is legal to do so.  Whether it is smuggling Bibles and religious literature, evangelism, or other religious activity that a governing authority identifies as illegal, our loyalty is to God, whose kingdom will far outlast any kingdom and government of the world.  We carry on as Christians both when it is in season and out of season.


Most of us face a far lesser level of antagonism due to our faith that others around the world.  However, our response is still the same.  Because we love God with all our might and our neighbor as ourselves, we honorably engaged in worship, service, and evangelism, even though many around us ridicule it.  We know the true meaning of honor, life, and love.