Jesus & Freedom

There is an assumption that, because many of our founding fathers were men of faith, that our great country is a Christian nation. However, I don’t know if that’s true, and I am not here to debate the history or the merits of such a claim. Truthfully, I see evidence on both sides.

I’m not addressing any of that in this post. I don’t see much of a point to use the past as anything other than a lesson. I have no desire to see our country “go back to the way it was” at any other point in history. That is an impossible and foolish wish. The only time we have influence over is the present, and what is occurring now. Besides, I think we live in a pretty amazing time in history.

Anyway.

As Christians, we seem to worry quite a lot about our faith coming under attack in our country. Whether it’s LGBTQIA+ organizations suing Christian business owners or the removal of the Ten Commandments from the public square, we seem to be awfully fearful of a future in which we cannot worship freely in the United States of America. We watch Canada enact laws governing what religious leaders can preach from their pulpits, ISIS beheading infidels, North Koreans imprisoning people of faith, and we tremble.

What if it were us?

Well, what if it were? Really sit with that for a moment. How many of you are joining in prayer with other believers for revival in America? How many are trusting in the promise of 2 Chronicles 7?

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” ~2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (NIV)

What if revival is meant to come in the form of legal and violent persecution? What if that is, indeed, the revival America is destined for?

Christianity thrives under persecution. The Church grows fastest and more faithful the more it is suppressed. Look at the growth of the Church in the Middle East, China, North Korea, and many African nations that are hostile to the Gospel.

Jared C. Wilson, in the Gospel Coalition blog, says it well.

“Christian mission has always thrived by surging in the margins and under the radar. When we somehow get into positions of power, the wheels always come off. This is pretty much the way it’s always been. …

Christianity is in decline in America, and Christendom is already in ruins in Europe, but in the East and in Africa, where it is new, a grassroots movement, and/or under persecution, it is spreading like wildfire.”

~How Christianity Flourishes, The Gospel Coalition Blog (emphasis mine)

I am not saying we shouldn’t operate appropriately under United States law to preserve our First Amendment rights. What I am saying is that we have no reason to fear losing if our rights are stripped from us in the long run. No reason to fear losing influence in our culture. Losing freedoms and rights we have enjoyed for over 200 years. In addition, we have no reason to pursue political power in an effort to shoehorn the U.S. population into some sort of idyllic Christian Nation. (When has that ever really worked anyway?)

Jesus didn’t come to give us power over men, but power over our own individual sin through his sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection. We do not gain Heaven because we are citizens of an earthly “Christian” nation, but because we are citizens of Heaven through Jesus Christ. That’s it. It does not matter what direction our nation takes. All that matters is where each of us stands in relation to Jesus Christ. Period.

What is the worst that could happen if we do lose our fundamental right to act according to our conscience as Christians? The absolute worst case scenario might be imprisonment or death for practicing the harder parts of our faith.

So what? Isn’t our treasure in Heaven anyway? What are earthly legal rights and freedoms compared to eternity with the God we say we believe in and love? Someday we each must stand before him and give answer for the talents, time, and resources he entrusted to us.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
~Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)
Nowhere in this passage does it say: “You were persecuted and you fought back. Your sermons were censored and you sued. You were sued and you stood for your rights.”
All throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, God’s heart for the poor, the fatherless, the widow, and the immigrant jumps out from the pages. It is how we treat the least of these that matters. Our rights have nothing to do with it, and losing our rights would not take away from us the ability to give a cup of cold water to a thirsty child in the name of Jesus.
While I would hate to see free speech and freedom of religion eroded, I would hate even more to see my wonderful Church family die on the hill of their rights.
Then, there is the promise that “in this world you will have tribulation.” And the one where Jesus tells his disciples that the world hated him first, so of course it would hate them too. No one ever wants to quote those promises or put them in a pretty coffee-table book.
Jesus before Pilate, saying nothing in his own defense. Literally nothing. Until he is asked whether he is King of the Jews. “Yep. You said it.” (paraphrased)
Who are we to think we ought to defend ourselves to the death rather than following the example of Jesus, led like a lamb to the slaughter? Gentle. Quiet. Unassuming. Saying nothing about his rights, though he is, in reality, King of the Universe. Who are we to think we will get off easier than Jesus, just because we live in a “free” country?
There is no freedom outside Jesus Christ.
Earthly freedom is an illusion. A beautiful one that I enjoy the many privileges of, but an illusion nonetheless.
For me, I resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
At least, in theory. Let’s just say I have to resolve this (imperfectly) everyday.

 

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