In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read about this chasm between the Sanhedrin and the Apostles. This we can see is the beginning of the separation between the Jews and the Christians. It actually does not begin at Jesus’ time, but in the days after Pentecost where you have a growing group of people following the Apostles and turning from the authority of the Sanhedrin.
Notice this one phrase, “We must obey God rather than men.”
These seven words are a phrase loaded with meaning. “We must obey God rather than men.” First, we need to understand that the Apostles are still considered Jews at the time and of course the Sanhedrin are Jews so this is not a Jewish/Christian thing. We are watching a conflict between two different groups within Judaism. This is important because none of this has anything to do with one group being Jews and another group not being Jews.
Second, we know that the Sanhedrin have compromised their values when they crucified Jesus in order not to upset the Romans. So now they are upset at the Apostles for preach they are responsible for that action. The reason why that is important, as we look at the Sanhedrin who have compromised their values, is that we have seen the same thing in light of some of our Church leaders. This is why it is so important not to see this as a Jewish Christian thing. As you see, the leaders of the Jews acting in the time of the Acts of the Apostles, so you can see some of our leaders act in our time today.
What is the response? The Apostles are going to follow the teachings of Christ—led by the Holy Spirit—which will not contradict the law and the prophets as Jesus said.
We have the same mandate.
We are living in a unique time today and we are confronted with the same question: whom are we going to obey and why?
Let’s go back to the Apostles’ words: “We must obey God rather than men.” Notice they do not say You must obey God or everyone must obey God, they say the word ‘we’ meaning themselves. They know the Sanhedrin are not going to agree, but that is not their concern. Their concern is to do the will of God. They have no control over the actions of the Sanhedrin or for that matter the Romans. That same mandate applies to us.
We must obey God rather than any other authority. We obey the civil government by obeying God first. But what about the others?
We, for the most part can do little about them, but we can do everything there is to do about us, therefore we must focus on obeying God and we must focus on doing that well.
Why? The answer can be found in the Law and the Prophets. Jesus says that we are salt of the Earth and we are the light to the world. We, by obeying God first before any other authority, live at a higher standard and live as a reminder of who we truly are as human beings. Remember, we are witnesses to Christ not just followers of his philosophy.
Others may reject everything we stand for, but we still must testify to the Truth that is Christ, if we do not, then they will be lost and so will we because they are following a limited world view and we did not testify to the reality of the truth. Many of them will still be lost, but we by testifying tried to testify to the great truth rooted in divine wisdom tried our best to lead them salvation and the eternal view.
Right now, in our country, many are commenting on the great divide that exists and the great rise of secularism that marginalized our faith. That secularism so greatly embraced by so many of the leaders of this country will eventually crumble because it is rooted in a myopic vision that is unable to see beyond our own experience. We saw it happen several times in the twentieth century and will see it again in the 21st.
When we obey God, we are not following a moral system, we are humbly embracing a transcendent vision for humanity that humans are incapable of discovering on our own.
The Apostles testify to a truth that embraces not only all of humanity, but all of time. The Sanhedrin embrace a philosophy that applies strictly for their time.
The same is happening today. Many cultural, political and scientific leaders are embracing a series of philosophies that cannot see beyond the here and now. They dismiss the thoughts of a wider understanding of humanity and in doing so they are filled with a blind hope for a future that no one can deliver. Hence, why we are living in dangerous times.
Despite great opposition from those who have such enormous power in our society and who are working to silence us and others, we have a mission to obey God, for we have to testify to a greater truth that they do not comprehend. The truth is that Christ brought us the promise of eternal life for we are not just material beings, but spiritual and material beings who have a destiny beyond this life. That basic truth is beyond the understanding of today’s cultural leaders.
However, if we do not obey God and seek to do his will, then there will be no one will be able to counter their myopic destructive vision.
When the Jewish State collapsed in 70 A.D with the fall of the Temple, the faith continued in those who chose to obey God rather than men, even among the Jews who had not come to know Jesus.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Catholics who never lost hope in the power of God, restored their churches in hours. Long ago in the Stalin era, they secretly hid paintings behind wall paper and artifacts in hidden places because they knew the secular ideal of communism could not sustain itself.
Vatican Radio, at the time, reported that one woman traveled 1000 miles to Moscow to be baptized for she knew all along that Christ was the answer.
We are surrounded by people who daily try to silence the voice of Christ in the name of a false hope of human progress of which they have no control.
You and I must continue living our faith so that we may testify to the truth they do not understand or comprehend. We do that by obeying God and not men; if we don’t then there is no more hope for us or for them.
Photo: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]