Moderator: Are you ready to stand before the rulers of this world and give your testimony? Jesus said, “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them” (Mark 13:9 NKJV). This is what happened to a brother of ours named Brad Roberts. His story was written in a news paper article by a reporter, Alissa Johnson, who was present and witnessed what happened.
|Written by Alissa Johnson|
|Wednesday, 23 March 2011|
|No better word
In Gunnison County, the word of God is preceded by the smell of popcorn and cigarettes. Or at least, that’s the way it seemed when brothers Brad and Steve Roberts appeared before the Gunnison County Commissioners on Tuesday. The unmistakable odors of both filled the room as they prepared to share a message they said had been delivered by God.
The meeting started in typical fashion: public works director Marlene Crosby introduced the duo to the commissioners, and there were handshakes all around as the two men settled into their chairs.
“We worked with Brad and Steve Roberts on the acquisitions we needed for the reconstruction of Taylor River road, which is currently in the hands of those people who handle the federal budget,” Crosby said. The brothers own a property there, which they inherited from their father. “During those discussions, they had some concerns about county processes and some of the ways we do business. It was beyond the authority of our department, so they asked to speak with you.”
Steve, the taller of the two brothers, spoke first.
“Since I got back in ninety-seven, I can’t trust this county, the people in it, what they’re doing and whether they’re honest,” he began, implying that great illegal wrong-doing has been brought against him and his brother. “But we’re in the life boat together, we got to make it work. All we got to do is determine what rules we’re going to follow and follow them.”
He leaned against the table, palms down, looking at each commissioner in turn.
“Would it concern you if people are breaking the law to carry out your policies? Wouldn’t that concern you?”
“These people,” he said, motioning toward Crosby and Jim Kint, public works foreman, “worked hard and worked diligently to get this [acquisition] done and then, we get to the county, and at the last second, they do something illegal again.”
It would later become clear that Steve was referring to an errant letter of condemnation received after two years of negotiations. But for the moment, he had a list of grievances to share. Steve Roberts alleged that since 1998, the county has broken the law against him in six ways, ranging from a health inspector who falsely declared he had cholera in his water to denying him the ability to borrow money against his father’s home to denying building permits because of potential rock slides on the property and then making it impossible to prevent the rock slide. The question, he said, was what do we do now?
Nearly a foot of difference in their height, the brothers had the same bushy hair sweeping over their eyebrows and anger on their faces. Brad wore tinted glasses inside—the kind of lenses that stay dark in a brightly lit room. Steve alternated between leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head and leaning angrily on the table, interrupted by an occasional chuckle from his brother, the two bickering like an old married couple when one interrupted the other.
“Sorry,” Steve apologized to the commissioners, shrugging. “We’re brothers.”
But where Steve was full of fire and brimstone, his brother Brad spoke slower, his voice rising and falling with the smooth incantations of an old preacher.
“We have had our hands full with our county government, and we have been wronged many times, on purpose. The county planners persecute every single person who walks before them,” Brad asserted.
In a quieter, calmer manner he addressed his concerns to the commissioners by name. Each sat attentively in his or her own way, taking notes or leaning forward attentively, making eye contact. No one raised an eyebrow when Brad intimated that he had the answer to his brother’s question—because God had given it to him. He’d been praying about it for quite some time, he told the commissioners. He had the answer right before him in a manila folder that heretofore sat unnoticed on the table. He turned it over, undid the metal fastener and handed each commissioner and the county manager a one-page document.
“The Lord answered [my prayers] and said I’m going to give you my word to take to them,” Brad said. “There is not a word of mine on this paper, but it is a response to my prayers. Two months before this, I was told by a prophet of God that I would get this message. [On the day it happened,] a young male voice said, ‘Brad, I will get back to you on all of these things today.’ I sat down with my bible and wrote these words I bring to you.”
Brad started reading, then, until his brother interrupted him, trying to bring the meeting to an end, “They know I’ve caught ‘em lying.”
But Brad was not to be swayed.
“Let me give them God’s word here, and then we can go back to being the people that we are,” Brad said.
And then the nature of God’s words began to change, giving advice on what to do next:
“For all of the law is fulfilled in one word: thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“Be ye doers of your own good.”
“Let us not judge one another.”
“Bless them that persecute you, bless not curse.”
Brad’s brother Steve interrupted then, “That’s hard.” But Brad kept on, finishing in entirety a document that he believes came to him from God—the perfect way to remind everyone in the room that it was a divine law of Christ, not the law of the county, that would rule in the end: “Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
“Let us all remember,” Brad told the commissioners. “We are all personally responsible for our sins. We are all created equal because we have the responsibility of making personal decisions.”
“Are we going to follow the royal law of liberty,” he continued. “Which is to love thy neighbor or go out to lie cheat and steal for the higher good?” He gestured to the paper in front of him. “100 percent of the action, 100 percent of it on an eight and a half by eleven.”
County Commissioner Hap Channell attempted to respond: “There is probably no better word than this piece of paper,” he said. But Brad continued.
“Right now, in this room, everyone is deciding what law they will follow,” he said.
“We continue to deal with what is the right thing to do. We appreciate you guys coming in more than we can say in the short time [that remains]. We also appreciate your confidence in Marlene and Jim.”
And suddenly, the tone in the room changed. The smell of popcorn and cigarettes was gone. People laughed and smiled and shook hands. Steve told the commissioners that before he came, everyone told him, “Steve, don’t get angry. Don’t get arrested.” Brad added that he didn’t need to be worried about the meeting.
“I have higher instruction you see, it says fear not,” he said, tapping the paper before him.
And then his brother Steve said something that put it all in perspective: “But when they come and say they’re going to steal your father’s house, what are you gonna do?” he asked.
It was, in the end, that simple. Two brothers who wish to honor their father’s property without being told how to do that came before the commissioners to share their grievances. There are no guarantees for what happens next, no way to control others’ interpretations of their unconventional methods. But they were heard.
“Already a difference, my friend,” Brad said as he shook commissioner Phil Chamberland’s hand. “Already a big difference.”
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