Week beginning: 26th April, 2015
By Peter Brown | Ballymena
'Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."'Acts 5:29-32 (NIV)
The most recent LCF/CMF half day conference was entitled "The Right to say "No"!", and was originally mooted as a natural successor to our previous event on assisted dying in the context of the conscience clause in the 1967 Abortion Act. The day subsequently took on greater significance with the proposal of a "conscience clause" defence to the equality legislation here in Northern Ireland. This was a direct political response to the Ashers gay marriage cake case which, by the time this is read by you, is scheduled to have been heard and judgment will probably have been handed down and the law clarified.
The most striking analogy (at least for me) was Stephen Shaw QC's reference to the artwork "St Ambrose barring Theodosius from the Milan Cathedral" by Anthony Van Dyck portraying the Roman Emperor and his entourage being excluded as punishment for the Massacre of Thessalonica. He emphasised the significance and importance of the church entering the public square and expressed the concern that if it were to be painted today it might instead portray the emperor trying to prevent the archbishop leaving the church.
Christians, and arguably especially Christian lawyers, should always be acutely aware of our responsibility to leave the church building when appropriate and go into the public square, even when we are likely to meet resistance. Perhaps, more importantly, we should equally be cognisant of when it is not appropriate to do so and we should intercede through prayer.
1) Pray that God would guide you to know when to make a stand for Him, and for the grace and confidence to do this with gentleness and respect.
2) Pray for all those who do contend for the Christian faith on various legal issues in the public square.