Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons from Roger Williams

I am reading to my 9 year old a little book called Once Upon a Time in RI which was written in 1914.  It is not a first source or anything; it’s just a collection of historical stories (true stories, it says) telling of some major events in the founding of RI for children. 

I am only in the second chapter, but I think that modern Christians have much to learn from Roger Williams.  I think some have forsaken the priority and call to share the gospel and love the “heathen” and are instead trying to use government power to force what they perceive as God’s agenda upon them. 

Christ’s love is much more powerful.  I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t run for office or vote or advocate their position. I am just saying that forcibly imposing our will through government....even if it is in keeping with God’s standard, was not God’s chosen way for “change”.  His chosen way was Christ and the gospel. 

Roger Williams had the same issues,  “Moreover, the Puritan rulers in Boston allowed the Magistrates there to punish people not only for breaking the laws about lying and stealing and so on, they also had the right to punish people for not going to church, or for breaking the Sabbath day, or for not believing as the Puritan ministers taught them.  This seemed to Williams very wrong.  He did not think the magistrates could have any such power as that.” 1  Instead, Williams “busied himself with teaching and preaching, and also began to seek out the Indians and make friends with them.” 2

He spent much of his time with the Indians.  He wasn’t reveling in or approving of their sin, unbelief, etc. but sharing Christ with them with his very life.  They seemed to welcome him.  He had respect for them.  One thing that got him into trouble with the Governor was that he believed that all the land belonged to the indians, and only they had the right to sell or give away portions of land, not the King of England. 

And let’s not say that Williams was some wishy-washy Christian, his true agenda was the gospel, that is clear.  He wrote and lived the truth and challenged the establishment’s doctrine.....sounds a lot like Luther.

I wonder how much further we would get in “encouraging” righteousness in our society, if we took our time to seek out the lost and live among them, invited them to our tables or dined at theirs, learned their language, and respected their rights as people.  I know there are Christians out there doing just that, many, many of them. Unfortunately, they are not the Kings and Governors and Puritan rulers.  So I guess this is a thought for the leaders and talkers who are called Christian.  

I know there is truth to be defended, consequences to curtail, Christian persecution to consider, but we cannot coerce people to believe as we do. Do we really want to use the government to do so?  (This goes both ways, do those who do not believe as we do, really want to use government to force us to believe what they do?)   
Even those things that are no-compromise issues for us - abortion for example.  How was it that the barbarians and savages of old stopped sacrificing their babies to their gods?   Missionaries came.  Missionaries were martyred.  Savages came to Christ and stopped killing their children.  That’s the power that changes.  Not government laws or edicts.

Why not try Roger’s way?  Why not try Christ’s way?

1  Once Upon a Time in RI by Katherine Pyle pg. 24-25
2 Ibid  pg. 22

1 comment: