Have you ever been arrested?” That question was put to me while I was handing out broadsides with Moishe Rosen in the Portland airport back in the early 1970s. I was confronted by a police officer who told me that what I was doing was illegal and that if I didn’t stop, I would be arrested.
Since Moishe had more experience, I turned to him. He gave me the option to stand back and watch or join him. I did not choose to be arrested with him. Since I did not know what would happen, nor was I confident about the outcome, I “chickened out.”
Several years later we did win a court case over that arrest that enabled us to go to the airport to tell people of Yeshua. It was a landmark decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is famous and is known as Port of Portland vs. Rosen. (If I had been braver, it could have been Port of Portland vs. Rosen and Cohen.)
Now it is 1990. During the first week of February I was handing out our broadsides in another public place—the Boston subway commonly called the “T.” I was standing outside the turnstiles when I was approached by an officer who challenged my right to be there. This time I knew from experience what to do. We had been handing out our literature in that area since 1983. I told the officer that I believed I had a constitutional right to hand out my free religious literature, but he did not want to listen. I was arrested and charged with trespassing and brought down to the “T” jail. After three hours in jail I was bailed out, and the arraignment was held the next day to set a trial.
After a four-hour wait in court just to get a trial date, I returned to the same site to distribute my literature and again I was arrested—with the same results. Only this time I was told upon my release that I could be facing 60 days in jail for a violation of the release from the previous day’s arrest, and that there would be no bail for that. The arraignment for the second arrest was scheduled for the next day.
Sixty days is a long time in jail, especially when you have five growing children! I wrestled with this in an intense way. I knew that the issue was the same one that had been before me in the Portland airport, but this time the stakes were higher. Which road should I take? I could back down in fear, or I could press forward in spite of the sacrifice I might have to make.
That night I had a long talk with my wife Jan and our children about the possibility of my going to jail. It was not easy on Jan, but we both knew that many others had gone through much more and had lost more than a couple of months. Together we realized that the cost of commitment to the Lord meant upholding his standard for the world to see, regardless of the consequences.
That night I asked for many prayers, and the next morning I was in front of the same judge. The wait was four and a half hours this time, and then the judge called for the lunch recess without hearing my case to set a date. The attorney who was with me had to be at another hearing at 3:30, so he asked the bailiff if we could be heard right when court started at 2:00 p.m. The bailiff said he could do even better than that. He took us to another court before a different judge who understood that we were dealing with a fundamental constitutional issue and allowed me to be set free with no bail.
That was a hard lesson in service to our Lord. But the stakes are high, and eternity is at stake! We need to push ahead for the high calling we have in serving our Lord, even at a sacrifice to ourselves. Jews for Jesus really needs your prayers that we keep on doing the right thing at the right time!