Here is a powerful story of a God-centered response to government control and fear.
In 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict commanding that all bishops, priests, and deacons should be put to death, he gave the Imperial treasury power to confiscate all money and possessions from Christians.
On August 6, 258, Valerian captured Pope Sixtus while he celebrated the liturgy, and had him beheaded. Afterwards he captured Lawrence the Archdeacon of Rome. Before killing him, the Emperor demanded the Archdeacon turn over all the riches of the Church. He gave Lawrence three days to accomplish the demand.
Immediately, Lawrence sold the Church’s vessels and gave the money to widows and the sick. He distributed all the Church’s property to the poor. On the third day, the Emperor summoned Lawrence to his palace and demanded the treasure.
Lawrence entered the palace, stopped, and then gestured back to the door where, streaming in behind him, poured crowds of poor, crippled, blind, and suffering people. “These are the true treasures of the Church,” he boldly proclaimed.
Lawrence’s act of defiance infuriated the Emperor. Valerian ordered his death that same day by being grilled on a rack. While being grilled alive, Lawrence is accredited to have said, “I’m well done. Turn me over!”
The Roman government of the third century sought to have authority over every aspect of their citizens’ lives. Religion was tolerated if your allegiance was to Rome first. The Christian church placed their allegiance first to God. Christians may submit to governmental rule yet their hearts and will follow God’s Will. This heart for God has been a source of contention between governments and God’s people since the beginning of Christianity.
Our recent election has a great example of governmental leaders’ desire to control the hearts of the people. One of the proclamations of the DFL platform was to save the soul of America. The soul of America belongs to God not to the government.
As those who push this American soul saving agenda gain political power; those who seek to serve God first are going to be pressured to serve the government first. God-focused leaders of a church cannot be government-focus leaders.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the Obama slogan was hope and Biden’s slogan is saving the American soul.
These slogans do not belong in the political realm where they can be manipulated by political leaders to fit their agenda. Terms used in a religious way outside of God’s truths are destructive. God’s truths begin in Biblical exploration.
In the Bible we come to understand the definitions and purposes of religious terms like hope and soul. In Holy Scripture, hope and soul are supported by other Biblical terms like faith, love, peace, covenant, salvation, heaven etc. Detached from Biblical witness, hope and soul can be defined by whatever opinion is most persuasive through coercion, intimidation, fear, or blind obedience.