During this election cycle, we have heard much about religious liberty. I only speak for myself when I say that this will be the most difficult election of my lifetime in knowing which candidate will serve better the cause of religious liberty as a nation. Thankfully, religious liberty is a freedom I enjoy despite who is in the White House.
My religious freedom is an eternal liberty, unchanged by where I live or who is in charge. While I have enjoyed the ability to practice my faith with great freedom in the country in which I live, I do not fear the removal of those outward freedoms. Maybe those freedoms have actually deafened me to the sufferings of many in the world. It may be that the religious liberty I have experienced has given me a false sense that I am a faithful disciple of Christ. Have I so twisted my freedom in Christ that I have elevated it to a status in a country rather than a position in the kingdom of God?
Peter gives us something to ponder when we consider our religious liberty:
Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves. Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.
He covers it well, but because we live in a different culture we must attempt to understand what he means here. How do we live as free men who fear God and yet honor all the people, as well as the “king”? Certainly the king of which he spoke was not a God-follower. How does this translate into our nation and world today?
The paradox of discipleship is that we are free to a life of obedience. What I have concluded (as of today) is that more than anything else, I must continue to practice my religious freedom in one important way: obedience to God alone. As a citizen of the US who has been given the freedom to vote or not to vote (though it’s a wonderful right, it’s not a law like paying taxes), I am unable to reconcile my beliefs about human life with casting a vote for either of the two major candidates. While all the candidates in all the years of my voting have been quite flawed, I have never been given such limited choice. One disregards through her speech and actions the humanity of the unborn and the other disregards through his speech and actions the humanity of women and minorities. I do not feel obligated as a Christian to choose one or the other. I will instead cast a vote by writing in yet another flawed individual, but one whom I believe would better represent all of humanity, even though that vote will be meaningless in the election.
In my attempts to practice my freedom to obey Christ, I want to honor God with my heart. Too often I have “peered into the perfect law of liberty and become a forgetful listener”. I have deceived my heart into believing that I am a faithful Christ follower. Too many times I have not practiced my religion as I should before God. I have forgotten the orphan and the widow and the poor. I have spoken words that were not like Christ. I have enjoyed the world a little too much. (James 1)
Freedom to practice our religion in this country is a wonderful gift. But I need to be much more concerned about practicing my personal freedom of religion – obedience. And in that freedom, there is no fear! Becoming a slave to righteousness gives me freedom that can never be taken. Even in death.
But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death.
But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”
I’m so thankful for the freedom I have in Jesus. A forever freedom. A religious freedom that faithfully practices holiness as a response to the undeserved liberty I have attained through the Cross.
Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the family forever, but the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be really free.”