But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:10-13)
Imprisoned For Burning A Flag
In December 2019, Adolfo Martinez was sentenced to serve 15 years behind bars charged with removing a rainbow flag in June 2019 symbolizing gay pride from the front of the United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa and burning it. Martinez said he did not believe the church should support the ideals of the LGBTQ movement and that he despises homosexuality. He was found guilty of a hate crime – a class “D” felony – third-degree harassment and reckless use of fire. The harsh sentence was given because Martinez had been convicted of two previous felonies and under Iowa law, his criminal history tripled the maximum available sentence for arson from five years to 15 years. It is clear that Martinez violated the rights of the United Church of Christ in Ames and by stealing property and burning it violated the law. While his sentence was expanded because of previous crimes, what is disturbing is the ability of the courts to impose a stricter sentence for burning a rainbow flag than what is prescribed by law for the national flag. At present, it is not illegal to burn a flag representing the United States of America. The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 (Texas v. Johnson) that flag burning (US) is protected by the First Amendment and invalidated state laws criminalizing the act of burning the US flag. However, the individual can be charged with a misdemeanor for starting a fire without a permit. Burning the rainbow flag of the LGBTQ is considered a hate crime and not bound under the First Amendment. There is nothing right about what Martinez did but what is concerning is the continual movement of society to protect homosexuality and enforce laws of those who disagree with the perverted lifestyle. If Martinez had burned the U. S. flag few would have taken notice. Taking the rainbow flag and burning it becomes a crime of hate instead of an expression of First Amendment rights. This precedent will lead to other movements (some have already taken form) that will ban the criticism and condemnation of homosexuality and anything connected with the LGBTQ movement – including churches that preach against it.
The United Church of Christ is not the Biblical pattern of New Testament authority. They deny the teachings of the word of God accepting moral dogmas that are conflict with the will of God. Homosexuality and all sexual immorality is a transgression of the law of God. There is no distinction made between fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, or lewdness in the mind of God – all are unrighteous. The apostle Paul declared those who practice unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God. One of the great stories of grace in the New Testament is a statement Paul makes to the Corinthian church when he writes that some of the brethren at Corinth were in the state of unrighteousness but were washed, sanctified, and justified in the Jesus Christ. Homosexuality is something that a person can repent of and change their life to obey the will of God much like fornication or adultery. There is no sin that man has done the blood of Jesus Christ will not wash away if a man repents and obeys the will of the Lord. Homosexuality can no more be accepted than trying to justify fornication, adultery, incest, murder, lying, stealing, or cursing the name of God. There are one law and one lawgiver and what God has determined as sin is by His authority. Social acceptance and the laws of the land cannot change the law of God. Sin must be repudiated through the measure of grace to let the lost soul find eternal life in Jesus Christ. The problem the church will be facing in the years to come is the backlash from the community when this message of truth is preached in pulpits and in the homes of the disciples. What is disturbing about the disposition of the Martinez case in the manner the courts are siding with the LGBTQ community against all those who preach that homosexuality is wrong. Teaching against the acceptance of homosexuality is labeled a hate crime and can be punished with jail. The rights of the Bible believing disciples will be challenged more and more in the years to come with serious consequences for those who oppose the rights of the minority.
Paul reminded Timothy that all those who desired to live godly lives would suffer persecution. It was a very real danger when Paul wrote these words as he was in prison charged with being a disciple of Christ. He would lose his life not because he had committed some heinous crime but because he followed a path of righteousness declared by the Lord. This kind of fear that enveloped the Roman Empire against the Christians did not happen overnight. What will happen in this great country is that over time the laws will become more restricted and pressure will be mounted against all those who oppose homosexuality. It has already happened where civil authorities have demanded preachers to clear their sermons with city hall before preaching. It was quickly dismissed but the idea of such a thing taking wings is a frightening precursor to what will be coming. Sending a man to prison for burning a flag is a remarkable indicator of the direction the United States legal system is going. There were many factors contributing to the 15 years imposed but the principle is the problem. When preaching against homosexuality becomes a felony (and it will) the church will be challenged with standing for truth or bowing to the corrupt hearts of men. Evil people and impostors will flourish and they will deceive others and will also be deceived. The power of the gospel will never change.