Two liberal “celebrities” have very recently shown a strain of tyranny underlying their beliefs. At the 2015 Women in the World Summit, Hillary Clinton stated her wish to force a pro-abortion mentality on everyone. “Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced.” Clearly, she wants laws to force “reproductive healthcare” which is another term for abortion. And then she made this revealing and troubling statement: “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Do you have a deep-seated religious belief about abortion being wrong? She says that has to change.
Chris Cuomo is a CNN anchor and brother to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He was talking with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who said, “…our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution; they come from God.” Cuomo replied, “Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.” A short time later he again stated, “Our rights do not come from God…Our laws come from the collective agreement and compromise.”
Tyranny is defined as “oppressive power exerted by government.” Recognizing that tyrants had in the past and would in the future endeavor to control the populace, the founders of this nation crafted the Declaration of Independence, which clearly stated that the people were endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Stopping tyranny was what the founders of America had in mind when they limited government by establishing a Bill of Rights for the people of this nation. It is undeniable that the Founders believed these rights came from God, not government. They were careful to recognize this as the very structure of the founding documents of America clearly show.
Clinton and Cuomo have a different vision. If deep-seated religious views have to change, who does Clinton think should force the change? Adding Cuomo’s contradiction of our founding documents to Clinton’s forced change would mean only one thing: the government decides what rights people have and therefore what laws should be in place. If your beliefs do not align with government, then it is not government, but you who have to change. Where is the Creator in any of this? He is excluded. If you believe you must obey God and cannot participate in abortion by funding it with your tax dollars, you have to change. That’s the world envisioned by Clinton and Cuomo.
How do you defeat tyrants who would use government to exert power to oppress your free expression of faith? The answer is what Peter and the other apostles said to those who told them to stop preaching Jesus. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And they went on preaching Jesus. Their fidelity to their beliefs is similar to Daniel’s, who continued to pray even when it was declared illegal. When tyrants endeavor to force people to do wrong, it is incumbent on the people of God to do right.
What are the consequences? That is in God’s hands. For the apostles, it meant that they were beaten. For Daniel, it meant the lion’s den. For Peter and many others who continued to preach Jesus despite the threats of tyrants, it meant imprisonment. Actually, imprisonment has been the experience of many believers throughout the history of the church.
Those consequences have not been without their blessings. The early apostles, after being beaten, went on “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:41, 42). Daniel was miraculously delivered from the lions. Peter had an angel escort him out of the jail. Several of Paul’s letters were written from prison (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon). John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress from prison.
The way to defeat tyrants is to obey God. Who won in the confrontations in Rome during the early days of the church? Did Nero and his lions really win? Where is he now and where are those early martyrs? Nero is judged harshly by history, while the martyrs are examples of faith and perseverance. Did the communists really win in their oppression in Russia and China? Despite violence, prison, and tyrannical oppression, the church in China under communist rule has exploded into what has arguably become the fastest and largest church growth movement in history.
In the 1980s, Vladimir Okhotin, a minister in the underground church who was greatly involved in music ministry, was imprisoned along with other pastors in the Soviet Union. He had a large family which he could not support from prison. After two years President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher negotiated a deal with Gorbachev to release prisoners of conscience. He was released under those terms and eventually left Russia and came to the U.S. along with several of his family. Later, the rest of his family joined him. My brother married his daughter. During the time of their wedding celebration, I was talking to Daniel, one of Pastor Okhotin’s sons, about his father’s imprisonment.
“I watched what being in prison did for my father,” he said. I was not prepared to hear what he said next. “Perhaps someday I will have the privilege of going to prison for my faith.”
How do you process that? I was reminded of those early disciples who rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ sake. Most of us who have been accustomed to a friendly environment for our faith recoil from the idea of suffering. Yet suffering has often been part of the experience of God’s people. It is sometimes even the will of God. We read that Jesus, the captain of our salvation, was made “perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:9), that there is a “fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil.3:10), and that we may “suffer according to the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:19). How are we to respond? We are to “rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet. 4:13).
If God can take suffering and turn it to blessing, if He can take persecution and turn it to church growth, if He can take affliction and turn it to increased faith, if He can give us beauty for ashes, if He can give us the oil of joy for mourning, then tyrants cannot win. Even if tyrants gain control and attempt to force God’s people to do evil, they will fail as long as God’s people obey God rather than men, keep the faith, and preach the gospel to every creature. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).