Are we losing our religious freedom? Just because we might not get the government we want here on earth, we hold out for the promises of an eternal King.
Some of you may have noticed that Beto O’Rourke, Democratic Candidate for the Presidency, wants to change the rules regarding tax exemptions for churches in the U.S. He says that if Christians don’t drop their opposition to same-sex marriages, their religious institutions will no longer get tax exemption. It has been pointed out that Mr. O’Rourke is unlikely to win the presidential nomination, but he is becoming a prominent player in the American political scene. O’Rourke predicted that the issue of churches accepting this position is going to be an issue in the future. And he may be right.
In 2019, we saw the Canadian government remove funding for summer programs for any religious institution that did not agree to abortion-on-demand as a basic human right, and we do not know what is in store for 2020. I have wondered whether this was a trial balloon, waiting for more legislation of this type to come in the future. Clearly, at least from my perspective, this is going to be an issue.
One of the things that alarms Christians in North America is that the wider culture is rapidly shedding itself of tolerance of religious freedom. For that reason, I thought I would try to put this matter into context.
The time period, from the year that Abraham entered Canaan until Jacob and his family joined Joseph in Egypt, was 215 years. That means the family lived in Canaan as a minority for all that period of time. They then lived in Egypt for 430 years, a culture that would not even deem it worthy to eat with a Hebrew, for that was detestable to them. This means, that for the first 645 years of her existence, Israel lived as a minority in a culture that was vastly different, and sometimes hostile to its faith.
Now, remember that the years that Israel actually had their own king, either as a united country or a divided monarchy, was 513 years. Only a minority of those years were they governed by a righteous king. Furthermore, there were times when foreign powers exacted a heavy tribute on them.
All that to say, that the vast majority of Israel’s experience, is the experience of the faithful finding confidence in their God, even while the wider culture either opposed them or simply rejected their message.
The Church of Jesus Christ was birthed in a world that rejected her. Our Saviour was a refugee, for the king had wanted to murder Him. Jesus promised that He would build His church among the pagan temples of this world, and the gates of hell would not be able to stop Him. All of these powerful images depict the people of God as a minority, whose hope is not in the political power structures of this world, but in the Saviour who purchased us by His blood.
What then should Christians think of the present era? We need to recapture the language of the New Testament. 1 Peter 1:17 reminds Christians to conduct themselves with “fear throughout the time of your exile.” 1 Peter 2:11 calls Christians “sojourners and exiles.” 1 John 3:13 says, “Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.” Indeed, as James 1:2 reminds us, “we are to count it all joy.” And we should not forget the words of our Lord, recorded in 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, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Perhaps we should stop being overly concerned about political acceptance, and rather, hold fast to Christ.