Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Religion’

Got FaithIn our 21st century American culture, much is said about tolerance.  In matters of religious faith, those who speak much about tolerance tend to imply (and occasionally explicitly request or demand) that people refrain from pushing their religious faith on others.  Their preferred state of faith in society would involve everyone following sentiments such as “live and let live,” “you do your thing and I’ll do mine,” etc.

I understand the sentiment, especially when coming from someone with no apparent interest in another’s faith.  Many are understandably quite content in their own faith or lack thereof.

So why can’t those of us for whom Christian faith is vital just mind our own business and leave others alone on the matter?  Two lines of thought emerge for me in response to the question.  The first deals with the legal right to practice one’s faith, and the second deals with the weightier fact of the explicit teaching of the Christian faith to spread the message.

As for the legal perspective, we allow people in America to practice their personal religious faith.  That’s what freedom of religion is all about.  The first amendment in our Bill of Rights states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This rightly prohibits the government from establishing religion and from prohibiting its free exercise.  We are guaranteed freedom of  religion, not freedom from religion.

Clearly, not everyone is paying attention to the Constitution and Bill of Rights in multiple areas these days, this being one of them.  There is an undeniable trend in our country to silence those who attempt to promote their faith – especially those of traditional Christian beliefs.  It’s trendy to be very tolerant of non-Christian faiths, but you won’t find those advocating religious tolerance very eager to allow conservative Christians the right to practice their faith unhindered.  You do not have to listen to too many newscasts or read many news articles to find repeated attempts to silence those who espouse traditional, conservative Christian beliefs consistent with two thousand years of Christian practice and biblical interpretation.

That’s a problem.  Why?  Because of the second line of thought.  The author or our faith – Jesus Christ – and his faithful followers in the New Testament consistently and unequivocally make it clear that sharing the gospel with all the world is at the core of what His followers are called to do with their lives.  That means that the general public sentiment against promoting one’s faith clashes head-on against a basic teaching, practice and personal spiritual discipline of biblical Christianity that calls the faithful to do that very thing.

Let’s take a look at some of the relevant Scripture passages.  Some of Jesus’ final words to his followers were:

  • “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” – Matthew 28:19-20.
  • “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” – Mark 16:15.
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” – Acts 1:8.

Many additional passages by inspired authors show the seriousness with which the early church took those words of Jesus, even if being faithful to the command resulted in their persecution and death.  Anyone claiming Jesus as Lord must do the same today.  To fail to do so is at best disobedience to Christ’s commands and at worst an indication that the person isn’t actually a regenerate believer.

To my non-Christian friends and visitors reading this, I share this with you in hopes that you will understand where I’m coming from in occasional blog posts about my faith, in posting the “This, I Believe” page detailing my core beliefs, in posting a list of Christian Resources I’ve created or recommend, and in the practice of my faith in other ways and places.  I also hope you will tolerate others who may approach you from time to time to discuss such matters.  Their heart is usually in the right place, even though their methods may sometimes leave much to be desired.

To my fellow Christians, I write this to remind us all of our obligation to be faithful to our Lord’s command if we, indeed, proclaim Christ as Lord.  I also want to remind us all that we are to do what we do from a motive of love and with an attitude of genuine compassion for others.  As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect” (italics mine).  Yelling, protesting, accusing, and generally being a hateful jerk isn’t representing our Lord very well.  Be sensible and sensitive in where and how you share your faith.  If we are genuinely concerned for others and we believe in eternal consequences of believing in or rejecting Christ, then that compassion should show in our words and deeds.  (And it does take words to share the gospel, by the way.  Deeds alone don’t tell the whole story.)

This issue isn’t going away.  Serious Christians will continue to share their faith because doing so is necessary in order to be faithful.  Some hearers will listen and respond positively, while others will ignore the message, and yet others will try to stop them from sharing.  To the extent that more of us know why Christians can’t (and shouldn’t) keep their faith to themselves, the greater the likelihood we can understand and accept each other.