Would Your Faith Stand Up In Court?

Because he hath appointed a day,                            
in which he will judge the world                             
in righteousness by that man whom                             
he hath ordained;     Acts 17:31                             

We read in the book of Acts where the great apostle Paul was on trial for his faith, appearing before the highest court in the land, the equivalent of our United States Supreme Court. He made his case before Felix, the Roman governor of Ceasarea; then before Festus, who replaced Felix. Paul even argued his case before King Agrippa II. Paul's faith stood up in court. Felix, Festus, even King Agrippa II found no evidence to convict him.

What about you? Would YOUR faith stand up in court? If your were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Could you prove beyond reasonable doubt that your faith is true and genuine?

It might interest you to know that our own United States Supreme Court has set guidelines determining genuine faith, as opposed to simply personal preference or a religious philosophy. In a landmark decision in *1972, the highest court in the country ruled regarding the characteristics that determine genuine faith. (Words italicized and underlined are quoted verbatim from the decision handed down by the Court.)

The kind of faith that stands up under trial is "not simply a matter of theocratic belief". It is not merely a preference or a philosophy. It has to be something that goes beyond mere thoughts or feelings; beyond one's ideas about what their religion is or should be. It has to be proven to be a very real and active part of their lifestyle. In fact the Supreme Court has said that genuine faith must be:

  1. A belief system that is "not merely a matter of personal preference". To stand up in a court of law, you have to be able to show that your faith is not merely a preference or a personal philosophy, but something real and solid. There must be a solid basis for your belief, something concrete to base your faith on.

  2. This belief system must be " shared by an organized group". You cannot just think up what seems to be an ideal religion and expect it to stand up in court. Again, there must be a solid and observable standard in place, with shared guidelines, rules, creeds, practices. No man is a religious island.

  3. A belief system that is "one of deep religious conviction,". The criteria used by the Court to determine true convictions, as opposed to preferences or philosophy, are these:

    • A. True convictions are "intimately related to daily living". In the words of the Court, a true conviction "pervades and determines virtually their entire way of life". Every area of your life, day in and day out, must be shown to be in accordance with your stated belief system. If you say one thing but practice another, even in only one small area of your life, it will not stand up in court.

    • B. True convictions have a history. The Court has determined that true convictions don't just spring up suddenly, but have a provable background. You have to be able to show a "religious history of consistent practice, and strong evidence of a sustained faith pervading and regulating respondents' entire mode of life ". Consistent, and sustained. Not a shallow belief, but something that is truly a part of your life.

    • C. True convictions are personal. They are "separated from the outside world and "worldly" influences,". A true personal conviction is something you would stand by, even if no one else would ever know whether you kept it or not. Even if there is no one to see, no one to ever know, you would still base your actions on your true convictions. You would not act in any way contrary to a true conviction, even if you were all alone.

    • D. True convictions are "preserved against the pressure to conform". True convictions remain, even in the face of all opposition. No matter what anyone else says, no matter what anyone else does true convictions will stand alone. It has been said that you can tell what a person truly lives for by looking at what they are willing to die for. A person with a truly held conviction would be willing to die rather to go against that conviction.

    • E. True convictions remain unchanging, regardless of circumstances. Societal values may change, technology may change the lives of virtually millions of people, personal circumstances may change, but true "religious beliefs and attitude toward life, family, and home have remained constant;" according to the Supreme Court.

It is vitally important for us as Christians to KNOW what we believe, and why. If we do not know Who and what our faith is founded on, it will not stand up in a court of law. I urge you to look at the criteria established by our own U.S. Supreme Court, and see if your own faith would stand up in a court of law, like the apostle Paul's did. Could your faith meet every one of the criteria quoted above? If you were on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Chances are, you will probably never be on trial in this country for your faith. But there is a much higher court than even our United States Supreme Court. There is a far greater judge than even the Chief Justice. The Bible says we each will be tried in that court; we will each stand before that judge: the Almighty God. The real question for us as Christians is: will our faith stand up in THAT court?

* Wisconsin vs. Yoder, 1972; CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.