“Protesting or Proclamation”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
We have been tremendously blessed to live in a country that operates by the rule of law. As an American citizen I enjoy far more freedoms than do a majority of people alive today. While I am thankful for my freedom and the laws that have been established to help protect it, I am afraid that for too many Christians, those laws have been put on an equal plain as Scripture. In other words, we have come to assume that freedom and the “right to worship” are guaranteed in Scripture for those who live in America and want to “practice their faith”. A recent article in the newspaper discussed the tension that exists between Christians and our secular culture, particularly during the Christmas season. “Christians and traditionalists across the nation are fed up with what they view as the de-emphasizing of Christmas as a religious holiday, are filing lawsuits, promoting boycotts and launching campaigns aimed at restoring references to Christ is in seasonal celebrations.” (USA Today.com, 22 Dec. 04)
The first question that came to mind as I read this article was why should Christians expect a secular culture to commemorate biblical truths through the public displays of religious symbols? While it is true that the First Amendment to our Constitution states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,” Christians must be careful that they do not place undue confidence in a document written by men, especially when that document makes guarantees that contradict the expectations of Scripture. On the eve of His crucifixion, Christ warned His disciples “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. ” (Jn. 15:18-19). Later, John himself wrote, “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. ” (1 Jn. 3:13) Please do not misunderstand. I believe that the enforcement of laws is vital to the stability of any nation, but I am concerned that for many Christians, the enacting and enforcing of certain laws has taken a precedence over the proclamation of the truth of God’s word.
When it comes to our demand to excersise our “rights” as citizens of this country and our faithfulness in fulfilling our responsibilities before God as believers, we sometimes show the greatest of inconsistencies. For example, we still enjoy the right to freely assemble, yet most Christians attend church for only one hour a week. We still enjoy the freedom to proclaim our faith,. yet many Christians have not shared the gospel with anyone this past year. We have many rights that allow us to live out our faith without fear of persecution, yet we do not exercise those “rights” for the glory of God. We busy ourselves sending e-mails warning other believers that we are losing our “rights” as Christians and exhorting them to become politically involved in “reforming” our government to ensure that these “rights” are maintained, yet we do not excersise these “rights” on any kind of a consistent basis. Perhaps even more disturbing, we want to fight for the “rights” that have no real impact upon our ability to spread the gospel or live for Christ. Is the public display of the manger scene a necessary tool needed to effectively share the gospel? I am afraid that it is far easier to put up religious symbols than it is to open our Bibles and speak the truth to those who do not know it
The second question would be this, Do we really want our secular culture to commemorate biblical truths through the public displays of religious symbols? The last thing I want is non-Christians to get some kind of an emotional, warm and fuzzy feeling by looking at a cute little baby in a manger. There are already too many people who believe they are accepted by God because they are superficially acquainted with the symbols of Christianity. Paul warns that these people are “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;” (2 Tim. 3:5)
Our churches are already filled with many people who believe they are now saved because they go to church, hear the “Bible being taught”, and sing churchy choruses. They have been lulled into a false sense of security because of their familiarity with things associated with contemporary Christianity. Do we need to perpetuate that misconception by forcing our secular culture to accept and embrace symbols of our faith?
The third and final question that I would like us to consider is this; How are we, as Christians, to live in a world that is in rebellion against Christ and what should we expect from our government?
1. We must keep in mind that Scripture never promises us that we will live in a country where rights are enacted and enforced that will give us freedom to worship the Lord without the presence of persecution. We must never forget that Christ has called us to be His ambassadors to a hostile world. We are called to proclaim a gospel message that will be spurned and hated because it confronts sinful men with their need to repent. This mission will not be accomplished through political activism but through the bold teaching of God’s word. God has warned us that such teaching will not be well received. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Pet. 4:12-13) “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Pet. 4:19)
2. We are commanded to pray for our government leaders in a manner consistent with Scripture. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. ” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Please note that our prayers are to be specifically targeted to the salvation of our leaders so that they will not use their authority to enact laws that will restrict our ability to live for Christ.
3. We need to be as concerned with the bold proclamation of the gospel as we are with ensuring
that some symbols that reflect that gospel are allowed to be publicly displayed. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ” (Rom. 1:16) “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)
4. Are we as concerned about doctrinal error that is doing great damage in the church as we are
about our rights as citizens being infringed upon? To be honest, placing a nativity scene on the courthouse yard will neither make or break my commitment to Christ. I am far more concerned with the attacks that are originating from within the church than those which come from without. When the apostle Paul was making his final trip to Jerusalem, he visited with the elders from the church at Ephesus. Knowing this would be the last time they saw him on this earth he sought to encourage and warn them of dangers they would face. Nowhere does he warn them of the infringement of their rights as citizens. Rather, Paul does say, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30) Where is the indignation when churches abandon the Scriptures so as to teach the philosophies of men?
Please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that we should not be concerned when the freedoms promised in the laws of the land are violated. But let us not lose focus and become preoccupied with fighting for “rights” never guaranteed in Scripture.
Merry Christmas!! May this be a profitable time spiritually as you reflect on God’s gift to man and as you proclaim this Christ, our Lord, to others!!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church