I had a dilemma. The police had told us to stop preaching to the spectators at the Hollywood Santa Parade because, in their words, we were “scaring the kids.” They admitted that we had “free speech rights” even at the parade, but they were going to shut us down anyway. What should I, as the leader of the evangelism team do? (Read the beginning of this story here.)
Step 7: Lay down your rights. We would be well within our rights to challenge the officer’s decision; we were by their own admission not doing anything wrong. The Gospel needs to be preached to the perishing; a strong stand for the Lord would certainly be warranted, but in the end who would really win? Would Jesus Christ be glorified?
I thought about these issues:
1) If I fought, I would lose. Have you ever noticed that police officers rarely admit that they are wrong? Also, the fact that there were two or three other men in blue as back up emphasized to me that it wouldn’t be worth the struggle. Besides, guys with guns always win. Always. (Read the article “On Dealing with the Police.”)
The police officers were really very nice and friendly. They really were concerned with the “family atmosphere” of the parade, Julie Nudie aside. From their perspective I was causing an unnecessary disturbance. They were really asking me to do them a favor, a favor with the show of force.
2) If I argued, the parade spectators would see yet another obnoxious, hateful, arrogant, and belligerent Christian making a scene. All credibility would be lost as far as our witness was concerned.
I could just hear them say, “There goes another Jim Jones in handcuffs.”
3) If I demanded my rights I would violate Christ’s call to lay down my rights. This was the main reason why I did not resist. Look, this wasn’t big time persecution, this wasn’t red-hot-pokers-in-the-eye tribulation; this was just a minor inconvenience, an irritating turn of events. Christians are called to willingly lay down their rights and freedoms when violated, entrusting all to Him Who judges justly.
“Pastor Steve,” Alfy gently encouraged, “I think we should go.”
“I know you understand, sir,” the policeman said. “I hope you agree.”
“I understand Officer,” I replied, forcing a smile through clenched teeth, “but I don’t agree.” I opened my cell phone to call somebody. Who could I call? Ghostbusters? The police?
We packed up and left, mindful of the police presence behind us as we walked on.
I was so darned bugged, yet had no choice, really. This was good training for the time when real persecution would come. There will come a day in America when police officers will not be so courteous and nice. There will come a time when the crowds will not be so friendly and eager to hear our message. Soon Christians will be forbidden to speak in His name. Period. Until that time, though, we’ll continue to work.
Mindful that we were now marked men we cheerfuly resumed handing out tidings of comfort and joy— via Gospel tracts—until the L. Ron Hubbard float passed by.