You can replace "street corners" with "county board meetings." The Pharisees liked to pray to be seen and be heard. To make a public spectacle of prayer. Self-glorification. That is exactly what is happening here. Does it matter to God if Bartlett-Frazier prayed silently before her meetings as opposed to the public display? Is the prayer less effectual? Is God less inclined to hear it and act on it? Then the insistence on reciting the public prayer had nothing to do with the cause of Christ and everything to do with the self-glorification of Robin Bartlett-Frazier. Then she hides that self-glorification behind the mask of persecution:
"Thinking of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I would not say his name because I might go to jail?" Frazier pondered. "I just couldn't do that."
Right. You just couldn't follow the directives of the authority over you. You just could not pray privately. You had to make this persecution known to all. Look at me, look at me. Meanwhile, no one comes to the cross and you further push away the very people we are charged with reaching with the Gospel. Jesus did not say go to the corners of the earth and make sure all meetings are opened in prayer to me. He did not say go to the corners of the earth and say - have a blessed day! He said to go and make disciples teaching them all you have learned. Unfortunately all we seem to have learned sometimes is how to play the victim of persecution while the real victims are still being martyred every day in this world. We make a mockery of them when we do so.
How did we get to this point? Because much of the American church continues to portray the unsaved as the enemy. I saw a sermon from John Hagee where he screamed that all atheists should "leave his country." Mockingly adding that there are flights leaving every hour - we don't want you here!" That's a heck of an evangelism plan you got there John. Pastors across this country demonizing the unsaved so that we can feel better about our own sin. Let us conclude today with the key verses from Peter. While the Gospel is presented on an offensive front, meaning we take the Gospel to people, our faith is meant to be in a defensive posture. What do you mean preacher? The Gospel is meant to offend. It is meant to divide. Our defense of why we believe in the Gospel is meant as a defense - not an offense. If people ask us why we hope we need to be prepared to defend that hope with gentleness and respect! Not with lawsuits and brash political statements wrapped in piety. Do we understand this today? Apparently not. We would prefer to offend people with the fact that we believe instead of allowing the Gospel to draw or offend those that hear it. We do so with no gentleness or respect either. We do so because we are angry. Or because we think we should be allowed to treat the country as if it were a theocracy. Or because they won't let me say have a blessed day. Or I can't open my council meetings in prayer. Well, I'll show them! I will sue them because that sure is gentle and respectful and represents Christ so well. Or I will make a public spectacle of my disobedience to the legal authority placed over me because that is sure gentle and respectful and represents Christ so well. No it does not. Those who revile our behavior are only put to shame if our behavior is good and is in Christ.
Somewhere in an Iranian prison, Pastor Saeed continues to languish. He has not spent the past two years there because someone said he could not open a meeting in prayer. He is not in chains today because someone said he could not say have a blessed day. He was building an orphanage to help the children of the very people who now persecute him. This Sunday a bomb will go off somewhere around the world slaughtering some of our brothers and sisters. They will not die because of trite and silly reasons. They will die because they refuse to renounce their faith. Suing your boss over "have a nice day" does not necessarily mock the true sacrifices being made today for the cause of Christ. Pretending you are doing it for God when you are really doing it for yourself mocks them. Defending a political operative for defying a judicial order to not open a county board meeting in prayer is our right as Americans. Pretending that it has anything to do with God however shows we hold our true heavenly citizenship in contempt over the America we have made our idol.
Reverend Anthony Wade - July 11, 2014