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Before We Pray for Religious Freedom

I’m not trying to be relevant. From my disadvantaged vantage point from the nether side of the globe (South Africa), the snookered view I have of the brouhaha over Indiana’s religious liberty legislation seems a bit like a storm in a tea cup.

I thought that freedom was already well established as a cherished virtue in the USA since the days of the Mayflower Pilgrims, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, We the people, send us your huddled masses, and all that.

Nevertheless, it behooves all Christians to be reminded occasionally that religious freedom is, biblically speaking, a privilege to be prayed for, not a right to whine over.

Here are two biblical principles with which I try to brace my prayers for religious liberty…

1. It’s not the government’s job to be godly.

It is not the government’s job to be godly and spread Christianity; that’s our responsibility as God’s salt and light.

It is the government’s job to pack heat and stop bad guys.

 

Romans 13:3-4 “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

I like that my country used to allow and even encourage Christian prayer in schools. I recall the Jehovah’s Witness kids sitting outside in the cold while the rest of the school met for assembly, complete with Wesley’s hymns, prayers, and teachers who claimed God told them stuff. That was the government school! In retrospect I feel that it wasn’t very governmental to make the JW’s squirm during the annual nativity play. National religious liberty needs to extend to all religions in a heterogeneous nation (just as the Christians in Bhutan if they like their current Buddhist prayer in public schools mandate).

It would be ideal (Utopian) if the rulers of a nation were godly. Most us in Africa would settle for a president who isn’t megalomaniacal, corrupt, and debauched. Or at the very least one who doesn’t have a criminal history. In the USA the standards are marginally higher and they should be. But unless you’re a patient Postmillennialist, you need to resign yourself to the fact that in practice God uses rulers as blunt instruments to keep the peace in a general “riots and potholes are bad, hospitals and libraries are good” kind of way.

 

2. Anything better than the right to worship Jesus, is a bonus.

I love that there are countries on this planet, like America, that value and defend and promote religious freedom. And it is sad that Hollywood is exporting the anti-religious liberal crazy world view, and that the legislature is being populated by leaders, and supported by voters, who are brainwashed by the liberal agenda. But codified religious liberty is not a biblical promise. prayer in school

God has promised some amazing boons for his children, including never forsaking us. But God never said our right to worship him would be protected, encouraged, or even allowed.

That said, God does want us to pray to him for the privilege of worshipping him in peace.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

So, we should pray for religious liberty—at least enough of it for us to meet on Sundays, preach the gospel, convert the lost, and perhaps have a Country radio station or two. We should pray that our leaders would be saved, or if not, that they would protect our right to pray for them to be. We should pray for the millions of our brothers and sisters who risk their freedom and/or lives to have a church service, take communion, and share the gospel with a co-worker. And we should thank God every time we meet to worship him without the fear of going to jail.