Issues on religious liberty seem to have taken center stage in societal and political debates this year in America. In some cases, such as Hobby Lobby, leaders of corporations were granted permission to apply religious beliefs to the health services they provide to employees. In others, like with Elane Photography in New Mexico, courts ruled that while the owners had the freedom to practice their religion in private, they were not allowed to express their beliefs in their public business.
Defining Religious Freedom
Many other issues have contributed to what David Platt in his book Counter Culture calls “a culture that is rapidly redefining the ‘free exercise of religion.” More often people in government jobs, public service, and even private corporations are coming face to face with decisions that put a dividing line between their faith and their careers.
Globally, many of our brothers and sisters and people from different faiths live without the opportunity of religious liberty. Some live under strict government control. The government inhibits the search for truth or new ideas. Others are fleeing for their lives from extremist groups or facing forced conversions.
How should we stand up for religious liberty? Will our actions affect our brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution? Should we stand up against efforts to minimize religious liberties or sit back and accommodate our culture?
Consider this quote from David’s book:
“In a land of religious liberty, we have a biblical responsibility to stand up and speak out on their behalf. Moreover, in a country where even our own religious liberty is increasingly limited, our suffering brothers and sisters beckon us not to let the cost of following Christ in our culture silence our faith.”
How We Can Stand Up for Religious Liberty
So how can we stand up for religious liberty and support the global body of Christ? In Counter Culture, David gives three steps that we can take:
Ask God to do the following:
- Prepare Christians in our own culture to respond boldly and humbly to increased governmental and cultural opposition.
- Work in the lives of rulers in our country and around the world so that there is more freedom to live and speak according to the truth of the gospel.
- Strengthen persecuted believers around the world to persevere in faith and to continue to bear witness to Christ, regardless of the consequences.
Prayerfully consider taking these steps:
- Use your religious freedom to openly share the gospel with one person this week. Then set a goal to do the same in the weeks that follow.
- Support and/or get involved with a ministry that speaks on behalf of believers who live in persecuted contexts, such as Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs.
- Consider how you or someone you know might participate on the issue of religious liberty, either legally or politically.
Consider the following truths from Scripture:
- Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
- Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
- 1 Peter 2:23: “When [Christ] was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”