How many times this summer have we heard the phrases “failure to comply,” “lack of institutional control,” or “failure to monitor”? Through all the headlines that have surrounded Ohio State football this summer, what became evident is that individuals failed to do the right thing. As much as I’d love to break down those issues from the perspective of a college football fan, I won’t bore you with my thoughts on the subject.
I’m sure you have noticed that we sometimes fail to do the right thing also. Those reasons could be fear of retribution. Fear we’ll be judged by others. Fear of not getting a promotion. Fear that doing the right thing could tarnish our reputations. Politicians may seek political gain through means that violate biblical principles. Athletes may take HGH to help them achieve fame and glory faster, even if that alters God’s creation. CEOs may fudge numbers or engage in fraudulent activity for financial gain.
In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul reminds us just how important it is for a Christian “to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16 NASB). The chapter in which this verse appears, and chapters 25 and 26 of Acts, illustrate how two individuals had the opportunity to do the right thing, but failed to do so.
The Jews brought Paul before Governor Felix based on charges that Paul was being a “pest” (24:5 NASB) and stirring up dissension. After Paul’s eloquent defense, Paul began to speak to Felix and his wife over the course of several days about faith in Christ. Felix became frightened and sent Paul away, saying he would call upon Paul when he found time. But Felix was not sparing Paul’s life by keeping him imprisoned, but rather hoping Paul would bribe Felix with money to obtain his release. He kept Paul at bay for two years hoping for a payoff!
Festus, who succeeded Felix, kept Paul in prison because he wanted to the do the Jews a favor and didn’t want to risk offending them. Once again, the Jews brought up serious charges against Paul. Festus made the politically expedient choice to ask Paul to go to Jerusalem and be tried there. As a Roman citizen, Paul had the right to appeal to the emperor for a direct judgment, which he did. According to Roman law, Festus had no choice but to obey the law. However, if Festus had not curried political favor, Paul could have been set free! Even King Agrippa, who arrived in Caesarea to pay his respects to Festus, acknowledged that Paul could have been set free, had he not appealed to Caesar.
As believers in Christ, Paul implores us to have a spotless conscience not only before God, but also before other men. In short, we are to show others that we are not afraid to do the right thing or speak what is right, no matter how unjustly we are treated by others, no matter the risk of losing worldly gain, such as political stature or money.
Men, do what’s right in the sight of the Lord and you will please Him. Christ died for us when He didn’t have to, yet he did so to free us from the bondage of sin in our lives. In other words, failure to comply is not an option.
—Kevin E. Davis