Embedded within ‘Christian politics’ and campaigns is the ongoing rally by Christian leaders, pastors, TV celebrities, authors and watchdogs to preserve our religious freedoms. This is especially prevalent during this pre-election season. (Here see here for example) The ‘danger’ and ‘risk’ of losing religious freedom and constitutional rights even provokes leaders and ‘shepherds’ to influence their churches and communities toward various candidates based on extra-Biblical criteria.
I am a Christian and an American, but wonder if we so cherish ‘religious freedom’ more than God’s call to holiness and separation. Do our values and priorities resemble those established by the apostles and Body of Christ in the New Testament – under the New Covenant? There are no Bible verses or precedents to undergird our rallies for government favor and support. Jesus Himself certainly had the power, popularity and influence to effect change and establish ‘religious freedoms’ and the people wanted Him King to do so! But neither the Lord nor the apostles ever used their following or influence to implement governmental change, even though believers were oppressed, persecuted and tortured.
I understand that the opposite of ‘religious freedom’ can lead to great suffering. Millions have perished and lives destroyed at the hands of persecutors. The Armenian Genocide perpetuated by the Ottoman Turks as well as the holocaust of WWII are only two examples. Horrific and wicked acts continue today through radical Islam and other groups. I am grateful to live in a ‘free’ and ‘safe’ country and pray that those suffering can find such refuge. So how could all this clamor to secure ‘religious freedom’ be a bad thing?
1. Our Christian forefathers, moved by the call of God, relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to establish the Gospel in the world. They never depended upon the ‘rights’ bestowed by any government. They expounded ‘separation from the world’ as a mandate, hardly aligning with secular governments. Alignment with the world never brings the world nearer to the Lord but compromises us, conforming us more to the image of the world.
2. The American Church as a whole is addicted to worldly freedom, enjoyment and prosperity. We extol our ‘freedom to worship’ but isn’t worship birthed in our heart, most genuine in the privacy of our prayer closet? No one can interfere with those who worship as Jesus defines, “in spirit and in truth”. Moreover, no one can stop us from our greatest call, “to be conformed to the image of Christ”. Is our alarm stirred by impending threat upon the business of Christianity in our country? Does our enjoyment, even pride, come from our prosperous megachurches and ‘gains’ we claim in changing social values?
“When the church was persecuted, it was powerful. When the devil saw that persecution wasn’t killing the church, he made them prosperous.” Zac Poonen
3. How will Americans stand in these last days? Rather than girding ourselves in the Lord and the power of His word, many of us choose to bask in ‘religious freedoms’. “When” not if trouble or persecution comes, many of us will fall away.
“What was sown on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” (Matt 13:20-21)
4. Is God grieving about our possible loss of ‘religious freedom’ or is He grieving at our lack of holiness? How different would we be if we tossed our moral and political compasses away and joined together in seeking holiness before God?
5. The quest to secure ‘religious freedoms’ necessitates inclusive collaborative actions. Supporters are finding ‘common ground’ amongst many types of faith. This innate drive of self preservation is a snare that will prepare many to accept the growing body of ‘ecumenical Christianity’. Loss of discernment is worse than loss of ‘religious freedom’ – one day a net will cast wide for a one world religion and most will be ready to join.
Of course losing rights and freedom is a ‘bad thing’. I don’t want to be persecuted, attacked, rejected or killed. I don’t even want a sneer or harsh word toward me. But the closer we draw to the heart of Christ, the further we should stand from the world’s arena. Our devotion to the Lord is necessarily tested through loss, harm, persecution and suffering (I Peter 1:7). Our strength to endure and to honor God is directly related to our separation unto Him.
True strength flows from our dependence and confidence in Him. The quest for political influence and preservation of rights increasingly promotes a wrong vein of dependency for Christians. When trials of faith come upon us, we will not be like the tree planted by the water, our roots will be shallow – planted in a temporal and condemned world.
God is for His people. He wants to indwell us, move through us and enable us to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth”. But that doesn’t come from securing our rights, it comes from dying to them…. ‘Pick up your cross and follow Me’.
A person carrying the cross of Christ has no rights. They are dead to the world around them. They are totally dependent on the life of Christ to empower them, to give them life, and lead them to victory.