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Our Defense Before The World


In the book of Ezra we learn that King Cyrus of Persia freed Israel from captivity and allowed them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.  The temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians as part of God’s judgment upon Israel.  A few years later Darius became king of Persia, and Tattenai, a provincial governor wrote to Darius telling him that the Jews were rebuilding their temple.  He suggested to Darius that he end the Jewish building project immediately lest they rise up and become a threat to Persia.       


Tattenai asked the Jews who gave them the authority to rebuild the temple.  In his letter to Darius, Tattenai states Israel’s answer which is very relevant for us today. Israel’s answer was two-fold and is found in Ezra 5:11 to 16.  The first part of their answer begins with the words “we are servants of the God of heaven and earth”.  The explanation that follows states that God Himself gave the Jews permission to build their temple centuries ago. 


The second part of the Jew’s defense was the fact that several years earlier King Cyrus decreed that they should rebuild their temple.  Once a king decreed something, it was the law and could not be revoked.  


I find the Jews’ defense interesting.  As I said, it was two-fold.   First, they testified to the fact that God originally authorized them to build the temple.  Second, they testified to the fact that King Cyrus authorized them to rebuild the temple.  Israel’s defense was first religious in nature, and then civil in nature. Their priorities were right, and they weren’t afraid to speak their religious convictions right off the bat.  They could have simply answered Tattenai by saying Cyrus gave them permission to rebuild, but they didn’t.  This was an opportunity to give testimony to their God. 


Christians today are undergoing similar pressure from society.  We are often asked to give a defense for our actions.  The press, the courts, and even our neighbours are asking us to give account of why we believe and act as we do.  In recent decades Christians have had to account for their thinking on issues such as Abortion and euthanasia.  Gay marriage is a big topic of debate right now.   


I believe when asked, our defense on these issues should be the same as the Jews defense in Ezra’s day.  Our defense  should be two-fold.  First, we take the opportunity to share the reason why we believe as we do. (1 Peter 3:15)   Our heart-felt convictions are based on what Jesus and the Bible says, and the world must know this.  Second, we point to any civil rights that we may presently have in these matters, and then we rest our case.  


Concerning gay marriage, in Ontario , Canada , where I live, gay marriage is now permitted by law.  At the same time, a Christian minister has the right to refuse to  perform a same-sex wedding.  The passage of this law a couple years back has not ended this debate, so I’m sure that the right of refusal by Christians to perform same-sex weddings will be challenged in court.  Some people in the gay community have already asked me why Christian ministers should be allowed to refuse to perform a same-sex wedding.  This is our opportunity to state our two-fold defense.  We give testimony to the fact that we follow Jesus’ thinking on this issue.  Then, we give testimony to the fact that the law permits Christians to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.  It’s important to understand that we should not leave out the Jesus part of our defense. The world must know why we believe and act as we do. 


When the time comes that we no longer have any legal  defense left, then we’re down to one defense, and that’s Jesus.  He is going to have to look after us at that point.  That day is coming.  We might as well expect its arrival and decide in advance that we will stand for Jesus no matter the consequences.            


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