The subject of religious liberty has become a hot point topic in the United States. Whether it relates to baking cakes for same-sex weddings or California Bill 2943, which deals with whether or not organizations can practice “conversion therapy,” many are concerned about the future of religious freedom in the country. This post will explore why this issue is important for believers in Jesus.
The Benefits of Religious Liberty
It is important to being with the fact that Jesus did not tell Christians that we are entitled to religious liberty. In fact, many believers throughout history have had little or no religious liberty from their government. Therefore it is unwise and unbecoming for Christians in the United States to act as if religious liberty is something that Jesus promised us.
We should rejoice when we have it, but we should not despair if it is taken from us. And we should not treat it as something to be grasped with white knuckles simply because it makes us more comfortable. We reflect Christ much more fully if we advocate for religious liberty not simply because it is good for us, but because it is good for all.
Why is religious liberty good for our nation? It is good because it allows all citizens to make free choices about their beliefs without the government dictating limitations. But doesn’t this lead to people making the wrong choices and following false religions? Absolutely.
But Jesus has not sent us to coerce people into following him. The church of Jesus was never meant to wield the sword of Caesar. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). And his kingdom grows like a mustard seed or yeast (Matthew 13:31-34), not due to an edict from a government.
In other words, as Christians, we should want religious liberty for all people, not just for ourselves. If we want it only for ourselves, we are in danger of seeking not religious liberty, but religious power in our country.
It is a fool’s errand for us to seek for the government to do the work that the church is called to do. We want Muslims and atheists and Jews and Buddhists and agnostics to come to faith in Jesus not because they are being threatened by the government, but because they are compelled by the gospel.
This means that prizing religious liberty means speaking up for it more often than simply when Christians are under threat. It means that we not only want to government to allow Christians to practice our religion but that we want to government to allow Muslims to do the same. We don’t want the government to forbid churches or mosques.
This isn’t because we think more mosques are a good thing. I don’t think this at all. I don’t think it is good for people to worship any God apart from the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. But I want to see people come to faith in Jesus through the power of the gospel and not through the power of the sword.
What Should We Do?
In the place and time to which God has called us, what are we meant to do in the arena of religious liberty? In short, the calling of believers is to boldly tell the truth to people in power, and then to faithfully live out what God has called us to do no matter what the government does.
Whether the person is power is a Republican or a Democrat, we ought to say that good things are good and that evil things are evil. This applies to a person’s actions as well as their policies.
As we speak the truth, it is important to advocate for religious liberty with grace. This means that in our words, in our voting, and in our conversation we prize religious liberty not as an idol to be grasped, but as a benefit to society for which we advocate. Speak up not only for the religious liberty of Christians but for all people.
After all, when all people have it, this makes the choice to follow Jesus a true and legitimate choice. And if persecution and difficulty come, we don’t have to rage and complain. After all, we know that God loves to shine his light through us when we are living in dark places.