Does religious freedom have its limits? Does the Constitution of the United States guarantee citizens the freedom to practice religion anyway their consciences (or God) tell them to practice it? A few years ago, the answers to those questions would have been a no brainer. I still think it is, but we are experiencing forces in our country that threaten one of the keystones, or even cornerstones, of our country’s founding.
I usually share thoughts about Christian growth or biblical principles, but I feel a need to raise an alarm about a collision I fear is about to happen. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Based upon the Constitution, how should our country respond if our government leaders passed a law saying we could no longer read our Bibles, gather on Sundays, or give offerings to our churches? We would no doubt stand up against this law and demand it be rescinded because we submit to a greater law written by Someone greater than a government leader. God commands us to read the Bible, gather to worship, and to give financially to our churches.
Should we hold other teachings or commands in the Bible with less regard? Of course not. For example, we should hold high the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. What if our neighbor has differing political views or doesn’t agree with our beliefs about the Bible? We love them anyway. God commands us to do so.
What about God’s commands regarding homosexuality and same-sex unions? This has become an awkward subject in our time. God says it’s sin, but our government says it’s a civil right and condoned by many of our government leaders. I want to be clear. Hating anyone is a sin. God doesn’t hate homosexuals or anyone else. “God so loved the world that He gave His Son…” As God loves anyone who sins, so should we. Aren’t you grateful God loves sinners? If not, He wouldn’t love you.
Just because we love someone doesn’t mean we have to condone sinful behavior. Here’s the rub. How do we love homosexuals while not condoning their lifestyle? We need to figure that out and do it. Do we have to condone their lifestyle? If we do, we’re denying the clear teaching of the Bible (read Romans 1 for starters).
Our Constitution protects the freedom of Americans to practice their faith freely, which includes following the teaching of the Bible. While the Bible deals with a lot of issues related to our lives, it specifically says homosexuality is a sin and same-sex marriage doesn’t honor the Lord. You may disagree with what I’m saying, but that will be between you and God. I’m not condoning hating anyone but insisting we love everyone. But I’m also not condoning making people do things and accept things that are contrary to their spiritual beliefs.
Our U.S. Congress is considering a bill called “The Equality Act” (the House has already passed it). We all should agree that all citizens should be treated equally. What do we do, however, when some aspect of equal treatment contradicts the Bible? Here’s a specific example. The Equality Act will require public places (could this include churches? I have no doubt) to accommodate people’s sexual orientation regardless of their physical makeup. In this scenario, it means men must be allowed to use women’s restrooms, for example. If churches do not allow this to happen, we would be considered by some to be guilty of hate and possibly not acting in accord with the Equality Act. Here’s another example. Let’s say my church calls a new assistant youth pastor (a twenty-eight-year-old young man). After serving in our church for a year, he brings his boyfriend to church and announces to everyone they are getting married. What do we do?
The Equality Act says we can’t ask him to step down from his ministry position even though the Bible says he is practicing unrepentant sin. What would we do when this youth pastor wants to have his wedding in our church? The Equality Act could be used as the basis to insist we allow the wedding.
I’m writing this article today because our country stands at a very dangerous, spiritual crossroad. When we begin to pass laws contrary to the teaching of the Bible, Christians have a problem. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of old, do we bow to the idol or do we stand against the law? Not only are Christians in trouble, but our country is in trouble. The Psalmist said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). It’s clear when we pass laws that are blatantly contrary to the Bible, God is no longer our Lord. Therefore, we are no longer blessed.
We must treat all people fairly, regardless of who they are. We must love all people equally, regardless of who they are. But we must obey God completely, regardless of everyone else’s opinion.
The Equality Act must be rewritten, or it will make part of the First Amendment obsolete. You can read more about the Equality Act and its dangers to churches and Christians in a recent article written by Franklin Graham. I strongly encourage you to contact your legislators and voice your opinion. I urge you to pray for our country and for our country’s leadership. We must love everyone, but our country’s leaders must not insist Christians and the Christian church disregard the Bible.