St Johns Lutheran Church Willow Creek

Connecting People to Jesus in Rural Minnesota

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Religious Freedom?

Pastor John Bennett

If you’ve been paying much attention to the news, it’s hard to avoid the stories regarding the freedom of religion, and the strong criticism that has been levied against those who defend it. Both Indiana and Arkansas have recently passed laws affording the residents of their respective states the ability to defend themselves in court if they refuse to provide services on the basis of their religious convictions. These laws have closely modeled the 1993 bill that was then signed into law by then president Bill Clinton, who said upon the signing of this bill into federal law:

What this law basically says is that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion…Let us never believe that the freedom of religion imposes on any of us some responsibility to run from our convictions – let us instead respect one another’s faith.

But at the core of the criticism is not only a lack of respect for the moral, biblical convictions of faith, but outright disdain and hatred for those who hold to the biblical teaching that marriage ought to be between one man and one woman. What is really ironic, and in many ways speaks to the minds of those who oppose the defense of traditional marriage, is that these states (Indiana and Arkansas) and their legislatures are being attacked as passing laws that legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians, when the laws of those states allow no such thing and don’t even speak to the matter of same sex marriage. Besides Indiana and Arkansas, 20 other states have already passed similar laws. In essence, what these laws provide is to allow those who have been accused of discrimination for refusing services on the basis of their religious convictions to have the opportunity to defend themselves, on the basis of their faith, in court. Nothing more, nothing less.

So why all the fuss? Why are we constantly being bombarded with accusations that it’s hateful, discriminatory, or bigoted if we, as Christians, object to that which we are convicted in our consciences, according to the Word of God, is contrary to God’s will and plan for those whom He has created in His image? This brings to mind what Paul writes in Romans 1:21-25:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

As Christians we have an obligation to remain faithful to the Word of God. On the one hand, we must speak the truth in love. On the other hand, we must also reflect the love of Jesus Christ in everything. Sometimes this means allowing our actions to be the primary witness, while waiting for the appropriate time to lovingly speak the truth that God has given in His Word. It is important to remain focused on the ultimate goal: the salvation of sinners. Though it is frustrating and upsetting when we see people of faith targeted specifically because of their convictions of their faith, we must remember that Jesus died for the sins of all, that He loves all, and that He desires the salvation of all.

In closing, I leave you with a link to this article: My Train Wreck Conversion. If you have the time to read it, please do. It gives a beautiful example of what could happen when we reach out with the love of Christ to those who are hostile to the Gospel and the Word of God. May we always be ready and willing to show the love of Christ to those who are in need of it the most.

One Response to Religious Freedom?

  1. Ron Lenz says:

    Well said, Reverend.

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