In the midst of all the fireworks of last Friday night’s Fourth of July celebration, I sat wondering if anyone else saw the impending clouds in the distance. They were no longer just an outline on the horizon, but were now deep and ominous, almost filling the sky.
I closed my eyes for a moment. I had to get away from the crowd for just a minute to block out the deafening booms and bangs and the oohs and ahhs. “Wait a minute…was that thunder?” I asked myself. No, what I sensed buried underneath the noise was a low rumble, like a grumpy, shifting giant, groaning deep within his diaphragm from hunger upon awakening. It was barely discernable at first, but obvious to me once I recognized the sound. I turned away with my head down, passing through a sea of partyers.
The approaching storm I was thinking of had nothing to do with the weather. It had everything to do with the slow and steady approach of threat to the very independence we celebrate. Bewildered, I have had to ask myself and others this question: Are we so comfortable in this freedom we enjoy that we don’t see what life would be like without it? Are we so mesmerized by the proverbial starburst and colors of our liberty that we don’t see, (or don’t want to see) the darkness that makes it so precious by contrast?
As Christians in America, I am beginning to feel the social tension like a wrench on an oxygen tank as it stifles religious freedom by degrees with every turn. However, we have not yet breathed in the smoke of arson setting fire to our churches as they have in Egypt, nor have we choked on the dust of rubble and ruins as those destroyed in China.
We haven’t yet had to clutch the tiny hand of a child born in prison as we wait to see if we would live or die, simply for the crime of professing Christ, nor have we had to surrender our children as we hear their last cries at the hands of Boko Haram militants. As the writer of Hebrews may say, we have “not yet wrestled to the point of bloodshed”. (Hebrews 12:4)
But why am I so “discouraging” or “negative”, you may ask? The answer is simple. I’m not saying all of this to be a downer. I’m simply pointing to Biblical prophecy. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul prophesied that these things will occur; that the church will come under attack and individual Christians will be persecuted. After all, Jesus Himself said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that they hated Me first” (John 15:18). This was not if, but when:
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.(2 Timothy 3:12-13)
Get this one:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”(Matt. 24:9)
Notice the “all the nations”?
It’s sad to say, but as great as this country is, America will be no exception.
But that doesn’t mean we should be flustered and taken off guard. No doubt we will be frustrated and discouraged, but this is all the more reason to temper those reactions with God’s word, all the more reason to get on our knees and seek His comfort and strength.
First, let’s examine our own hearts. Let’s take an honest look at how our own sin, (not anyone else’s), has done a fine job of separating us from God all on our own. It’s from a humble heart that God empowers His own to be a light in the world, ready to have an answer for our hope and faith.
Second, let’s remain sober-minded and focused upon our roles as believers in this world. Let’s wake up while we still have the opportunity! Let’s not be blind to the storm clouds coming or deaf to the rumblings of injustice. Let’s hold fast to sound doctrine, (for there will be many false teachers, Matthew 24:24), and re-dedicate ourselves to sharing the gospel as the kingdom calendar winds down.
Third, even though we understand prophecy, we can, and must make our voices heard for the simple preservation of society. Even in the recent Hobby Lobby case, it is important to point out that it was won by one small vote. Therefore, I implore all of you to go and vote for congressmen and senators that reflect your values, to make your thoughts and opinions known to our leaders. God has given us channels to defend these principles. On a practical level, I found some very helpful links and ways to get involved to make a difference in the world while we are here:
How to contact your Congressman
How to get involved in your local politics
Having said that, I believe that laws and social reform fall short in one major way, and that is that they do not have to power to change the heart. They are a crucial framework by which to live, but they cannot, and do not transform anyone from the inside out. They cannot give me a desire to obey and live a godly life. As a Christian, I believe only the gospel can do that. Speak up we shall, but our greatest voice is to share the gospel. This perspective is that where godliness is seen, there is an influence on the individual, and the whole.
Last and most importantly, let’s remember that God is sovereign over all governments, and that all forms of wickedness and corruption will be cut down and God’s name will be glorified. Even in these times, we have the promise of comfort and peace in the end.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
What are your thoughts and convictions in regards to religious freedom and what is going on in this country and the world?