Stand up and be countedIn the December 2009 edition of First Things, editor Joseph Bottum writes a strong appeal for immediate action in defense of our religious liberty.
By: Pastor Jim Joseph, Lake County News Chronicle
In the December 2009 edition of First Things, editor Joseph Bottum writes a strong appeal for immediate action in defense of our religious liberty.
He warns, “Two freedoms are at risk: the freedom of conscience for individuals and the freedom of religion for churches. The loss of either of these will damage the nation...Too many of the churches are giving in. The great historical presence of Christian witness, the moral force that derives from faith in Jesus Christ, is equally endangered by the growing acquiescence of the Christian churches. Harried by law and social pressure, the churches have begun to beg off the duty to which they have been called by God - the duty to stand up before their cultured despisers and say what must be said by those who believe it: that faith in Jesus Christ is the cure for the diseases of our time, that all human beings are endowed with the dignity and worth of having been made in God’s image, and that the universal truths established by God at the foundation of the world remain the universal truths of human existence today...all believers must stand up now and make a declaration.”
The situation has not improved and by several measures significantly declined since Bottum wrote his article. Many in the Church, it appears, are making one of two choices. The first is the Amish option- isolate oneself from the world, decry its depravity, and avoid any unnecessary engagement with the prevailing culture.
The second option some are choosing is Acquiescence- just go along to get along. Religious liberties are assaulted. Instead of the right given to us by God and guarantee of the First Amendment- the right to freedom of religion, leaders speak about a freedom of worship. The former is the right to live our lives according the dictates of our faith while the latter simply allows for the right to gather in together for a worship service.
We are told by politicians and the media to keep faith private and to not involve religious beliefs in government, politics, or daily life outside of our homes and churches. Sincere believers are ridiculed as simpletons or vilified as intolerant demons. The Bible is mocked as a fairy story written by homophobic old men and irrelevant for today while those who seek to destroy faith are spoken of as enlightened and tolerant.
There is however a third choice- the Apostolic option. When threatened by the Sanhedrin and commanded not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus, the Apostle Peter replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard...We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29)
It is time for the people of God to stand up and be counted. No more skulking in corners and hoping that someday things will get better. No more turning a blind eye as the truth of God’s Word is mocked and people of faith are marginalized.
The message that has been committed to the church is needed today more than ever before. The message of the Gospel that teaches all are sinners in need of a Savior; that the eternal God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for our sins; that He rose again on the third day, and that because He lives our sins can be forgiven and we can enter into a living, vibrant relationship with that eternal God.
It is a message of hope and love- a message that the world desperately needs to hear. It is also a message that some will do anything to stop others from hearing. Nevertheless, the Church must speak it out no matter what the cost.