Reread God’s warning against imposing government on yourself: “And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” I remember God’s warnings whenever I am presented with a new law that would use the force of a secular government to enforce compliance with what is sold as “God’s will.” I find it distasteful for my children to be taught to abandon faith in the power of Christ’s message to alter another’s self-destructive behavior, and to embrace government’s forced social and economic engineering.
My wife and I took our four teenagers (two boys, two girls) to experience “The Passion of the Christ.” What I hoped Mel Gibson would do, he did, and did well. I remember having read an American Medical Association account of Roman crucifixions from a doctor’s perspective and was prepared for the intense visual (and emotional) impact. And I found it hypocritical for film critics who applauded “Saving Private Ryan” for its realistic portrayal of war, to then decry the violence done to Jesus in Gibson’s film.
There was no overt attempt to promote a belief, or to explain the meaning behind the life of Jesus. The movie filled the void left by other film makers who were too fearful to even attempt depicting the final hours of Christ’s life as recorded. The movie doesn’t delve into the accuracy, authorship or meaning of the Gospels – or the evils of the Roman Empire; it merely presents an accurate visual account of the process of crucifixion as it was recorded, and as it has been taught for almost 2,000 years.
Saying “Jesus is Lord” meant saying that the Romans and the Temple rulers were not. And it is this challenge, to the collective authority of men, that has made those of faith a constant threat to those who would lay claim to your life – and all that it has or will produce. Individuals who answer to a higher authority are very dangerous when forced to choose between service to their God (conscience) or the Church or the State. Jesus was dangerous to the false gods of earthly institutions, and God used their fear and brutality against Jesus as a very effective method to spread a message that included tolerance, forgiveness, faith and freedom.
As we take the time to discuss the use of the power of government to protect the rights endowed to us by our Creator, I hope that we are very mindful of our individual obligation to not allow that power to be used to violate those rights by the infamous “they.” “There are those who wish to be left alone and there are those that will not leave them alone.” “They,” in this case, are those who will not leave you alone. I choose to peacefully promote answering to a higher authority.
Often here in America we have been more fortunate than in other parts of the world, due to our cultural support of freedom through our traditional institutions. Sadly, that is changing, and danger is on the horizon. There is no virtue in forced compliance, and Jesus taught us not to seek Caesar’s enforcement of God’s laws. He used witness, testimony, example, parable and compassion to bring about a voluntary change.
Instead of wasting time putting faith in the collective force of fallible men, Jesus demonstrated the power of faith in God’s word, while showing each of us that we are not worthy to cast the first stone. I would argue that it is weakness to empower others to force compliance with the laws of men, or God, in our name, I think we know what Jesus would do.
And if you don’t … well, the book is always better than the movie.