“Then the herald loudly proclaimed, ‘Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: … 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’ … 18 …Your Majesty,… we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” … 28 “… They [Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego], trusted in Him [God] and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
– Daniel 3:4, 6, 18, 28 NIV
In a speech addressing the freedom and conviction of religion, John F. Kennedy said:
“I think it’s appropriate that we pay tribute to this great constitutional principle which is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution: the principle of religious independence, of religious liberty, of religious freedom. But, I think it is also important that we pay tribute and acknowledge another great principle, and that is the principle of religious conviction. Religious freedom has no significance unless it is accompanied by conviction.” – Cited from the Founder’s Bible p. 645
Friends, we have had our days of religious freedom but NOW is the time for religious conviction!
With the decision of the Supreme Court, there is a great need for sincere followers of Jesus Christ to stand firm and exhibit courage.
Like you, I’ve read and heard numerous perspectives, opinions, and talk on the Supreme Courts decision to legalize gay marriage. I’ve also heard a repeated mantra from various churches in the Portland area and the bottom line goes something like this:
The state makes laws for its citizens and the church has standards for the people in the church. Both are separate and should remain distinct.
This all sounds pretty agreeable, but with one huge exception. Historically, the state has always overreached its bounds by insisting that the church comply with it’s ever-evolving moral compass. How sobering and timely are the verses from Daniel written above? In our case, it probably does not mean life or death but most likely it will mean prison, financial penalties and ostracization.
Here is an example of what I am now starting to hear from some of the pulpits in the Northwest. Two men, Michael Frost and Mark Woods wrote a their blog about their take on the Supreme Courts decision.
“It is entirely up to the state to declare what relationships it will recognize as marriage, and the Church should not have a problem with that.
It is entirely up to the Church to declare what relationships it will recognize as Christian marriage, and the State should not have a problem with that.”
I think what these gentlemen are saying is that the government (state) has the right to make decisions that pertain to its citizens. The church does not have a say in the decision of the government or how the laws pertain to its citizens.
From my perspective this is really short-sited because it makes the assumption that the wall of separation will remain a wall. However, history has shown that this is not the case! But let’s suppose that their statement is true and we even agree with it.
What if the state starts to dictate what the church cannot teach, or restrict what they can say, believe, and stand for? Suppose the government now says that individual Christians must comply with a moral code that is in violation of their conscience in their private business, private schools, seminaries, parachurch organizations, private Christian websites etc.? (By the way this is happening now!)
How will Mark Woods and Michael Frost respond when the State starts to tell them what they can and cannot do or say in regard to their brand of Christianity?
Just look to our neighbors to the North. Canada is fast becoming a country that is passing legislation that prohibits the teachings of Leviticus 20:13, and Romans 1:26 relegating these passages and those who teach them to the category of, “hate speech.”
It is really naive and myopic to think that the government will stay in it’s place. This is exactly what the Founders were afraid of when they wrote the First Amendment. They did not want the King of England to dictate what churches could believe and teach. The State (England) was forcing them to comply with what they deemed to be acceptable with regard to faith and practice.
The entire history of the separation doctrine had been to prevent the State from meddling with, interfering against, or controlling the Church’s beliefs and religious expressions. Consequently, the separation doctrine was never used to secularize the public square. Quite the contrary. It existed to protect, rather than remove, voluntary public religious practices.
The First Amendment is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the Free Exercise thereof.
The first part of the Amendment is now called the “Establishment Clause,” and the latter part, the “Free Exercise Clause.” The language of both is clear; and both clauses were pointed solely at the State, not at the Church. Notice that the Establishment Clause prohibited the State from enforcing religious conformity, and the Free Exercise Clause ensured that the State would protect (rather than suppress, as it currently does) citizens’ right of conscience and religious expression.
Both clauses are prohibitions only on the power of Congress (the government) , not on religious individuals or organizations.
It will be interesting to see what our Churches, and Para-Church organizations will do when the State takes away their tax-exemption status because they do not comply with what is considered politically correct language and behavior. Actually, that will be the least of our worries. What about when the state tells us that we cannot meet in our homes for church, or that your children must comply to the social mores that the public school endorses, or when they limit our jobs and Higher Education until one complies with the regulations of the social State?
The First Amendment is meant to protect us from such State intrusion! We now are seeing the First Amendment being attacked under the auspices of eliminating the tax-exempt status for churches when in reality it is a move for the State to control the message and actions of the Church.
The republic of America means that the government is the people and the State is to work for the people. Christians are going to pay a steep price for refusing to engage our whole culture with the message of the Kingdom of God.
We all are heading to a rude awakening. I predicated about 15 years ago that this time would come and the leadership at the time gave an indifferent response to my message. They disregarded the message and attacked the messenger.
When Peter and John were commanded not to speak and teach in the name of Jesus Christ, what was their response?
“But Peter and John replied. ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’”
– Acts 4:18-20 NIV
Now is the time to speak.