“Hello Carl. I’m Victor, Pastor Victor.”
“Thanks for coming to see me, Pastor.”
Victor sized up the man across the table from him. He could see the young man’s eyes flicker around the room, noting the watching prison guards and the other signs that said, “This is a jail.” It was a county jail, but still definitely a jail. Victor saw an odd mix of defiance and serenity, determination and fear in the young man’s expression.
“The Sheriff said you wanted to see a pastor. What can I do for you?”
“What church are you from?” asked Carl.
Victor was surprised. When someone asked for a pastor and didn’t specify which, they normally went straight to their problem. It might be help with their bail, contact with loved ones, or some kind of spiritual counseling.
“My church is called the 10th Street Gospel Fellowship. It’s non-denominational. But why don’t we discuss your problem here.”
“I need to know who you are. Are you born again?”
Victor paused. He was surprised by the question, but he had asked it of many who called themselves Christians himself. Every Christian should be born again and willing to say it. “Yes, he said. I’m a born again Christian. What about you?”
“I am too,” said Carl, looking neither surprised nor offended. It appeared he expected to be asked as well. Then he added, “And do you believe the Bible? The whole Bible?”
“Yes, I’m a Bible believing Christian.”
“Good,” said Carl, and then he paused a moment, as though he found it harder to ask his next question. “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? Do you believe God can speak to us today?”
Victor was still puzzled. But again it was a question he had asked many times himself. “Yes,” he said, “I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe He will speak to you. But we will only be allowed a limited time for this visit. Perhaps you need to tell me what you need.”
“I need to talk to a born again, Bible believing, Spirit filled pastor. What did you think I needed?” It could have been belligerent, but it just sounded puzzled, as though there was only one possible reason for this visit.
“Well, I’m used to being called here by people who need bail money …”
“I don’t plan to post bail.”
“… or need me to contact their loved ones …”
“I have nobody who would be interested.”
“… or perhaps have other financial needs …
“I think they provide my needs here.”
“… or who want spiritual counsel.”
“Well, I don’t know if it’s ‘spiritual counsel’ I want. I just wanted to talk to someone who would understand. Then maybe you can pray with me.”
“Well, how can I help you then? Would you like to explain why you’re here?”
“I’m being persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
Victor couldn’t keep just a bit of tension from his voice. He was unaware of any outbreak of persecution in his Christian community. Apathy, false doctrine, worldly living, yes. Persecution, other than a bit of ridicule for those who were truly committed Christians, no. “What particular form of righteousness are you being persecuted for?” he asked.
Carl didn’t seem to notice any veiled sarcasm. “I’ve been arrested for witnessing,” he said.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
“I would have thought you’d have some idea, if you are truly born again, Bible believing, and Spirit filled. If you are being a true witness for God in this place, you will likely be arrested.”
“But what specifically happened to you?”
“Well, I came into town, and I heard the Lord saying to me, ‘Chamber of Commerce’. I knew that meant that I was to witness to the business people of the town. I had already seen several shops involved with pornography, so the business community here is certainly corrupt, or they wouldn’t allow such things. When I got to the Chamber of Commerce I found that the parking lot was filled. There was a meeting going on. The Lord had gathered people together to hear from me.”
Victor was listening with ever increasing horror. He was afraid he knew where this was going. Carl continued.
“I went into the meeting and waved for attention. They ignored me. Then I shouted. Finally I went up on the platform and grabbed the microphone. I told them that they needed to repent for the sins of this city and invite Jesus to come in and rule in the businesses, the school, and the government.”
“And then you were arrested.”
“Yes. There were deputies right there in the room. Apparently the meeting was about businesses working with law enforcement. So I was arrested for disturbing the peace and brought here.”
“Are you surprised they arrested you?” asked Victor.
“I was just doing what God told me to do. I even told them that God had called me to speak to them. But they still arrested me.”
“You can hardly be surprised. You could have chosen a better time.”
“But God told me to do that. When Peter and James wanted to preach in the temple they just went ahead and did it. They said they had to obey God rather than men.”
“But they didn’t go and interrupt a meeting of the Sanhedrin in order to witness. They preached to people in the courtyard. You went into someone else’s building, someone else’s conference room, and interrupted their activities.”
Carl looked surprised and puzzled. “I thought you were a Bible believing Christian,” he said. “Surely you remember Paul preaching on Mars Hill. That wasn’t a church. Or in cities like Lystra and Derbe, where he was persecuted. He didn’t ask permission.”
“But Paul was invited to speak on Mars Hill, and when he spoke in the Synagogues, he was invited to do so.”
“But God told me to do this. You said you believed God speaks to people today. He spoke to me. He told me where to go to preach.”
“Are you sure he didn’t mean you should start a business, join the Chamber of Commerce, and reform them from inside?” asked Victor.
“You’re mocking me. Get thee behind me Satan! Quit tempting me to doubt!” Carl was standing up and shouting. Two guards were running over.
As Carl was being led away, he heard the words “apostate” and “persecutor” amongst the many thrown at him. “But I was just witnessing!” was the last thing Carl shouted. What a fool! thought Victor. No common sense at all.
It wasn’t until he was halfway back to his church that he began to wonder. What in the way I teach the Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit would prevent someone from doing what Carl did? Have I taught them any discernment? Any good sense?
It was a sobering thought.