We are in a time when almost everything we hear about this country is negative. The notion of praising God for the freedoms we have as a nation seems out of place in so many ways today. Think of how many times in years past you heard someone praying in a church service and they thanked God for the freedom we have to gather as we are in worship to God without fear of being molested by anyone? It is a phenomenal freedom. So many parts of the world do not have such freedoms and demand that you worship only the god that they recognize as god. They don’t just discourage any other forms of worship. They will destroy everything and everyone that violates their ideas on who and what to worship. Many of the early settlers in this country risked their lives to cross the ocean and settle in this land because they were longing for the freedom to worship God as they believed His word taught. Strangely, some of those same settlers set up forms of worship in areas where they settled that demanded everyone worship as they understood. But as a whole they were determined to offer freedom to people to worship as they believed was right, with the clear understanding that anyone had the right to try to convert the other person to believe as they did.
One has to admire those Christians who are devoted to God completely, even though they live in countries that do everything in their power to keep them from worshiping God as they long to do. I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to have to hide to worship God for fear that if you were caught you and your whole family would be executed for your faith. Many in that situation have fled to other countries where there is freedom of religion and many of those have come to this country for that freedom. But many have no way of leaving where they are or choose to stay in their home country in hopes of reaching friends and family for God and for change in that country. Thank God for these people of great faith.
Understand that the freedom of religion doesn’t make up for failings of our country in other areas. We need to use the freedom to worship God as we believe is right as a means of trying to improve the country in other ways as well. But, let’s not allow the failings of the country in some other areas to destroy the treasured freedom of religion or the freedom of speech. These two freedoms go hand in hand. If we lose the freedom to say something because what is said is offensive to someone else, then we lose the freedom of religion at the same time. Let’s face it, if we say there is one God, it is offensive to those who believe there are many gods. If we say that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for us to have salvation in him it is certainly offensive to those who deny his deity and who think the very notion of God dying on a cross is insane. If we declare that Jesus is the one way to God and that no one can come to the Father except through him as he said in John 14:6 many would consider such a message to be offensive since they think one way is as good as another.
God challenges us to “Speak the truth in love.” But no matter how loving we are in telling someone some truths it will be taken by them to be hateful and thus labeled as “Hate speech.” Let me be clear, I am not defending saying things in a hateful way or condescending way to anyone. I don’t think we have the right to tear another person down because of their differences from us. But it is also true that many consider it hate-filled to tell them they are wrong or mistaken about anything. If one is living an immoral or dishonest life and we point out that such a life is wrong and condemned in the word of God, many would consider it hate speech. By that standard Jesus, the most compassionate, loving and forgiving person who ever walked on the earth would have had hate speech in tons of things that he said. It was in love that he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me, they cannot be my disciple.” It was in love that he said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” It was in love he called the religious leaders of his day hypocrites who strained out gnats and swallowed camels. It was in love that he declared that it is hard for a rich person to be saved. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to be saved.” His love gave the greatest of invitations, “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened down and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This week think of things about this country that you want to improve and begin to pray and work for those changes. But also, think of the freedoms we do have in this nation and praise God that we have such freedoms, including the freedom of worship and the freedom of speech. Don’t miss the blessings while focusing on the wrongs.