My friend Peter Rollins wrote this moving parable. It was also a part of the Praise and Worship service Sunday night. Enjoy!
In a world where following Christ is decreed a subversive and illegal activity, you have been arrested and brought before a court.
The prosecution has quite a case against you. They begin by offering the judge dozens of photographs which show you attending church meetings, speaking at religious events, and participating in various prayer and worship services. Next, they present a few of the religious books that you own, followed by some of your worship CD’s and Christian artifacts. After this, they step up the pace and present many of the poems, pieces of prose and journal entries that you have written about faith. Then, in closing, the prosecution offers your bible to judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings, and underlinings throughout, evidence, if it were needed, that you had read and re-read this sacred text many times.
Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that, with the evidence amassed against you, you face the possiblity of a long imprisonment or even death. At various times thoughout the proceedins, you have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has haunted your mind, you resist the temptation and remain focused.
Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case, the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent and resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth, you would deny the charges made against you. After a few moments of silence, you are led away while the judge ponders your case.
The hours pass slowly as you wait to be summoned back. Eventually, a guard appears and leads you into the courtroom in order to hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. The judge enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak,
“Of the charges that have been brought forward, I find the accused . . . not guilty.”
“Not guilty’, your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve is transformed into confusion and rage.
Despite your fear, you stand before the judge and demand that he tell you why you are innocent of the charges in light of all the evidence.
“What evidence?” he replies in shock.
“What about the poems and prose that I wrote?”
“They simply who that you think of yourself as a poet.”
“But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the days that I offered myself for prayer?”
“Evidence that you are a good speaker and actor, nothing more. It is obvious that you fooled those around you, and perhaps even yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law.”
“But this is madness, no evidence would seem to convince you.”
“Not so,” replied the judge as if informing me of a great, long forgotten secret. “The court is indifferent toward your bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down that brush, and their life, in a Christ-like endeavor to create it. So then, until you live as Christ and his followers, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then my friend, you are no enemy of ours.”