Summary: According to the book of Acts, when the temple-based authorities in Jerusalem command Peter and his associates to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus in public, the apostles refuse. With a pithy reply, “We must obey God rather than any human authority,” they declare their intention to honor their spiritual convictions no matter what consequences may result. The apostles’ heroic and bold resolve stands in a long tradition in which people have pondered when it is right to insist on honoring one’s conscience in the face of political and legal pressure to do otherwise. Given the contours of the current cultural discourse in America, when many are quick to demand laws and concessions that respect their “religious liberty,” this episode from Acts and the travails of other Christians who have paid a price for resisting tyranny remind us how we should conceive of “religious liberty” in the first place. Such liberty in a civil society should not become a license to do whatever one wants or a legal basis to deny rights and hospitality to others. Rather, it is a free determination to do what’s necessary to promote our neighbors’ well-being, even if those actions invite uncomfortable repercussions.
Read the full article, which is part of the ON Scripture–The Bible project, on ON Scripture.