Sunday, January 10, 2016

Religious Freedom

Is religious freedom a civil right?

We had a discussion at church tonight.  From one perspective, religious freedom is not a civil right.  It is a God-given right.  We are free.  We are in Christ.  We are live in that freedom of the Gospel, that freedom of the forgiveness of sins, that freedom to speak the truth. 

Of course, that may mean we are also free to suffer on account of the Gospel.  "Blessed are you when men persecute you and revile you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake." 

The Constitution's first amendment guarantees suggests that the government not infringe on religious freedom.  That part is a CIVIL right.  A couple of centuries ago, our government wanted to ensure that people would not be persecuted for believing, speaking, and acting upon their religious beliefs.  And ... what the government gives, it can take away. 

So yes, we are free with regard to religion.
But no, we are not free to expect that there will be no suffering and no persecution.

We have been talking frequently about Daniel.  The book of Daniel shows us how believers lived and confessed during times of religious persecution.  The ones who believed in the Lord worked [gasp] for the good [gasp] of the government which was persecuting them.  They did not hide their trust and their prayers; neither did they flaunt it and be "Bible-thumpers."  They did their jobs, went about their business, helped the pagans who had kidnapped them, and then received death sentences for refusing to bow down to idols.  They enjoyed "freedom of religion" in the true sense of the word.  No one could make them deny the Faith.  These folks did not, however, have a civil right to religious liberty.

Can we fix the government so that our civil rights are once again guarantees and not mere wishes?  Maybe.  Probably not.  The problem is not new.  It started a century (or more) ago; the changes have been picking up speed.  Forty or fifty years ago all the problems we see today were already in existence; they had not yet come to fruition; but they had already started.  (This too is not unlike what Daniel experienced.)  I find it very interesting that we see nowhere that Daniel was counting on Cyrus or the work of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Daniel was not agitating for the government to change its policy.  Daniel's hope was in the promises of the Lord, not in fixing things here on earth.