Jesus doesn’t need Religious Freedom and neither does His Church

By Joel A. Hess

Although it has died down since the Donald took office, many prominent Christians and Christian organizations have been on a crusade to preserve the First Amendment in this country. No doubt, it has been under assault over the last 10 years as Hollywood and despotic judges have been on a Marxist-like campaign to force businesses, individuals and even churches to conform to their new puritanical morality concerning same-sex relationships, abortion, contraception, etc. Recently, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod established an office in Washington to join their much bigger cousin’s campaign.

Their mission statement reads,

The mission of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty is to ignite and fuel a uniquely Lutheran response to increasing intrusions, limitations and challenges by the government in the life of the Church, while educating, encouraging and equipping LCMS members and organizations to take informed action in support of marriage, life and religious freedom.”

A couple years ago, I would have applauded this new development. Christians should definitely take a stand regarding God’s institution of marriage. We should adamantly pray for the end of abortions (and the end of boyfriends, parents, and schools that force women to hurt themselves and their child in this manner.) These are biblical truths from which pastors and faithful church bodies cannot hide.

But religious freedom? Where is that in God’s Word? Does God tell His people to establish the freedom of religion in any book from Genesis to Revelation? Is it even of God’s concern or that of any of His prophets or apostles, let alone His Son? So why would a Church have a center dedicated to religious liberty if that is not even a virtue or charge of God’s? So why would a Church have a center dedicated to religious liberty if that is not even a virtue or charge of God?

Should official representatives of Christianity be seen as fighters for religious liberty?

I get the urge. I love our constitution, and I truly believe that preserving the First Amendment is the best way for the government to govern and for a people to enjoy peace. And I encourage people from all walks of life whose vocation it is to make laws to get on fire about this. But I also think a democratic republic is the best form of government. I don’t think God gives a hoot. I also believe Tom Izzo and his Spartan basketball team need to learn how to play against a zone defense. But I’m sure God doesn’t care. Therefore I don’t think it should be an official doctrine of God’s Church.

In addition to God not caring whether a country has religious liberty, one could make the case that He isn’t a fan of it! Argue against that, please.

In the next couple weeks, we will celebrate the greatest event in the history of the universe—an event even greater than when the Lord spoke and the lights went on and surely far more significant than some obscure Revolutionary War and governing document called the Constitution. We will celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection for the salvation of all mankind! While the Roman Empire thought themselves pretty generous when it came to religious liberty, Pilate’s argument failed that fateful day. Thank God. And Jesus didn’t say a word. No lawyer speak or legal manipulation came from his mouth. He had far bigger things in mind than preserving His life or changing laws. He came to raise the dead, to usher in a new era where sins are forgiven and once dead men are walking. His reign is not of this world. That doesn’t mean it does not include this world, but that it exists, persists, and triumphs regardless of what the world thinks about it.

Thank God! He didn’t come to establish religious liberty! He came to give us real liberty, freedom from death, from punishment, from our hateful desires.

So also He charged His Church to do the same. Go and make disciples by baptizing and teaching. There’s not a word about making the world a better place or passing laws that will create religious liberty or even laws that will ban this or another sin. So Jesus has been making disciples through the Church, with or without government’s help, for 2,000 years.

When official representatives of Christianity fight for religious liberty, they only look small minded and concerned about establishing some sort of Christian state. They look selfish as they claim some sort of right for themselves. Again, Christians who happen to be lawmakers, lawyers, or at least not pastors or professors of seminaries can very well fight for religious liberty according to the constitution and common sense, but not according to the Bible or in the name of Jesus. Let us turn the other cheek.

Pastors’ goals should not be to win arguments against unbelievers but to win over unbelievers to the immeasurable grace of God! The Church’s goal should never be seen as passing laws to make the world more moral but to bring people to repentance and to faith in the free gift of God’s grace.

How dare we confuse people into thinking Jesus is just some way-of-life religion or that His work of salvation depends on whether a country allows Him to enter! How small such a god looks who needs people to fight or him.

How about a Lutheran center for liberty in Jesus? That’s the only liberty the Church is charged with giving!

4 thoughts on “Jesus doesn’t need Religious Freedom and neither does His Church

  1. You have pointed out many excellent thoughts about the church’s role in cultural issues and especially, religious liberty. It is true our first and foremost duty is the spreading of the Gospel. However, in my own opinion, a byproduct of our religious life as Lutherans is to confront the society in the realm of morality, and to avoid withdrawing from the culture wars. If we do not oppose abortion, for example, who will? If we do not confront the system when a Christian student in a public school is ordered to refrain from mentioning Jesus as a reason for his faith….then who will stand up for him? The news is filled with similar stories where Christians are deprived of free speech or viewpoint expression which does not conform to prevailing and popular ideas. Who will contend for the faith? Will we risk offending the system or quietly sit back and give the devil room to taint the world without opposition? I like the words of Col 4:6….” Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” The “salt” is the Gospel of truth, in short, it is our faith and our anchor. As the Bible also declares, God has not given us a “spirit of fear” but we cannot avoid speaking to our society. We need free speech and religious liberty, and we must be willing to fight for it.

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  2. What about Paul using his citizenship, his God-given-through-the-Roman-given right to appeal to Caesar for the sake of the Church?
    I think this article misunderstands 2 Kingdoms theology.

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  3. Lindsay, I do not think Joel’s exposition misunderstands the two kingdom theology. He is coming at the issue from another direction, a view shared by many Christians as well. Joel is correct in many points on how we should approach the secular government and culture as Christians, however, as citizens we do share the free speech rights of other citizens, and so long as the prevailing laws allow us freedom and religious liberty, we should take advantage of it. When Paul appealed to Caesar, he exerted his citizenship rights as a Roman, but he also used this privilege to advance the word of God, bringing him into contact with a diverse group of people, from prison guards and slaves, to religious leaders, common people, royalty, and to even the Roman rulers. Quite an opportunity to spread the word of God. Paul never went on a crusade to rehabilitate the morals and values of the pagan unbelieving Roman society, but he didn’t flinch from preaching the Gospel, which teaches God’s views on righteousness. In my view, and others can disagree, is that we should still use our free speech and religious liberty to the fullest, especially regarding cultural wickedness. But I also feel we may eventually lose these freedoms completely to political forces outside of our control. We should continue to make our voices heard.

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  4. I agree with Joel. The first amendment is not going anywhere. Also, we citizens have the right to vote, write politicians, volunteer, and even run for office. We can also pray for our government officials which only Christians can do for them. I think a denominational lobbying office is not needed. O we of little faith, let us trust in God.

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