If someone is reading the Bible out loud near a closed government building, should they be arrested for interfering with that business? It is one thing to have someone actually get in the way of people attempting to get to the business, but to be back 50 feet on public property and get arrested would be an overreaction, wouldn’t it? A California pastor was reading the Bible aloud outside a closed DMV and was arrested for doing so. (story) The claim is that he was violating other people’s rights because they are a captive audience and are totally incapable of ignoring it. I don’t know. That seems like a weak argument. I am out and see or hear things I don’t like and I am able to ignore them. Reading the story of Jesus is not hate speech and it isn’t a message of condemnation. If someone doesn’t believe it, then they don’t have to believe it.
I have been to different youth conferences and there are times when there have been different groups handing out literature to teenagers outside of these events. Some of these have included things that various atheist, secular or other religious groups have put together to try to persuade these young minds. How is that any different? In some ways that is actually more offensive because they know they are there for a Christian conference. They weren’t getting arrested for their activities and the audience was captive there as well. They could have just walked by and ignored them, sure, just like these people could have ignored this man as he read the Bible.
As I read my Bible this morning, I came to 1 Samuel 3 and was struck with the rather scary manner this chapter starts out.
“The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.” 1 Samuel 3:1
That is a terrifying statement. To think that God’s Word was rare is not something I like to think about because God’s Word is life-giving. God’s Word is truth. It is the only way we can make sense of all the nonsense around us. In fact, later when God does speak to Samuel directly, it takes him a few times before he even realizes it was God speaking to him. He just didn’t know what God’s voice was like.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” 1 Samuel 3:7
Today the Bible is widely available, but not as widely known. Having constant conflicts surrounding its proper use is not helping matters any. We have had high school students lead a Bible study at school and get hassled for it. Why? Because they claim that they are not allowed to hold this on school property. Why not? They can hold any other club they want, why not this one? There is something that gets people fired up when it comes to God’s Word. I asked one of my high school students one time why they thought that was. He said that it was because the Bible is true and it automatically causes people to feel uneasy because it reveals things about them they are not willing to deal with. I think that is a fairly accurate assessment.
I am not saying that we need to disrespect people or get in the way. I just think that people are smart enough and capable enough to handle what they believe. Having police arrest people for talking about Jesus is a step in the wrong direction. Could this pastor have done something different? Sure. But, it still doesn’t make sense to me why it couldn’t have been handled in a respectful manner without the handcuffs.
The world needs the Word of God. This is why I do what I do with teenagers. I know that so many of them will never read their Bible on their own. Of course, I encourage them to do that and I pray they do, but I also know there are numerous pressures that keep them away from it. But, when they come to youth group I know that they will be looking at God’s Word and how it applies to their life. I know it is important and it is just what they need. I certainly want them to get used to hearing from God so that when He speaks, they know. This also means that when other voices speak, they are able to tell the difference. We do not want the Word of God to be something rare!
How do we do that? First of all, we need to open it up and read it ourselves. We can’t just rely on Sunday morning to get all we need from God’s Word. Second, we need to talk about it. I don’t think you need to go stand on the corner and read it necessarily, but you can integrate it into your daily life. Also, pray for God to give you opportunities to share what you believe. If we believe people need the Word, let’s do our part to share it no matter what opposition we receive.