Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where must We Stand when our Freedom of Worship is Threatened

When my daughter was 16, she asked:

  • Dad, if I marry a non-Christian, would you walk me down the aisle?
I answered, “no way!” to which she responded:

  • Dad, love is hard to find. You need to take it where you can find it.
I tried to explain to her as best as could that I couldn’t participate in something that I regarded as sinful. I could no more give her away to a non-Christian than I could to another woman:

  • While you want me to affirm your relationship with your future husband, you do not seem willing to affirm my relationship with Christ.
My daughter might not have gotten the point, but she knew that it was futile trying to budge me. (Incidentally, she did marry a Christian and has thanked me for my unwavering stance!) However, we are confronted with new pressures today – an aggressive and militant secularism that also refuses to budge:

  • If churches are forced by new legislation or by civil suits to conduct homosexual “marriage” ceremonies against their beliefs, it would constitute “a piece of tyranny by which the rights of hundreds of thousands, millions even, of people of faith … will be ruthlessly trampled upon,” said the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
  • David Cameron's government has announced that gay "marriage" legislation will be introduced next week. But in a statement issued November 15th, UKIP warned that the writing is on the wall for churches if the government introduces legislation creating gay “marriage.” 
  • It is “inevitable that gay couples will seek the right to marry in Church and that Churches will refuse to permit them to do so,” said UKIP. Despite the government’s assurances, “there will, very soon after the introduction of gay civil marriage, be a challenge in first the domestic courts of England and Wales and then in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the exclusion of gay people from the right to have a religious ceremony of marriage is unlawful discrimination against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation.”
Will the churches budge? I’m afraid that many already have and many others will follow. It’s just too easy to justify what everyone else has justified:

  • Well, it’s now a law, and allowing them to use our buildings is not the same thing as allowing them to dictate our faith.
However, it is not that easy. Such a move will divide and poison a congregation. If not to divide them, it will make compromise much more acceptable. “Well, we’ve turned over our church for the sake of peace. Let’s just rejoice with them in their marriage and be peacemakers!” But how can we rejoice over what is offensive to our Lord!

  • Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (Psalm 1:1)
We are not at liberty to support the agenda of the world. John warns us against aiding and abetting sin:

  • If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 John 1:10-11)
Although I tend to believe that there might be extenuating circumstances, these do not include allowing the State to take away our liberty to exercise discernment in these matters.

We have to keep ourselves pure from evil. When we help sinners in their pursuit of evil, we are partaking of that evil. Consequently, Paul warned against even ordaining a brother too quickly, because we are then responsible for what this brother will subsequently do. In regards to this, we must keep ourselves “pure” (1 Tim.5:22), and how much more when we know that we are promoting what is wrong before God!

By allowing the State to dictate how the church is to use its own resources will also push the congregation to accept something that they cannot accept. Christians have to retain moral control of their own space. Paul had against warned violating our conscience:

  • But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
Even if eating lobster isn’t wrong, if a Christian thinks it’s wrong, it is wrong! Therefore, by eating, he dishonor God and damages his conscience. Therefore, if the pastoral leadership allows same-sex marriage into the church, this also involves their congregants, perhaps enabling them to compromise and violate their relationship with Christ. Paul used the example of eating in a pagan temple:

  • For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Cor. 8:10-13)
Facilitating a gay marriage in the church will also require at least a minimal participation of the staff. In some sense, they will be walking the bride-to-be down the aisle. This is something that we can’t do without becoming participants. It would be like renting out our church facilities for a KKK conference. Instead, we are warned to stay apart from any contact with sin:

  • Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephes. 5:11)
The good King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, made an ill-advised treaty with an evil king. Consequently:

  • He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, "Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made." The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade. (2 Chron. 20:36-37)
Jehoshaphat yoked himself with the wrong person, thereby compromising his relationship with his Lord. When we offer our resources for sinful purposes, this is exactly what we are doing:

  • Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Some congregants might think:

  • Well, this could prove an excellent opportunity for us to give out tracts and talk about our faith. After all, it’s our church. We can do what we want within it!
No! You will find that you no longer own your own church. It has now become subject to the State, and you will be arrested for disorderly conduct! You have already forfeited your sovereignty over your own property.

If we can no longer talk freely about our Lord in our own space, then we have lost the right to speak freely about the Lord anywhere. If we agree to this restriction, then we must agree to any restriction that the State wants to impose on evangelism and our freedom of speech.

When we become yoked to the wrong parties, we can no longer anticipate what other compromises will follow. Next, the church will have to remove anything that might be deemed offensive from the walls.

Against this enforced conformity, our Constitution has rejected any State incursions upon the practice of our religion:

  • Congress cannot make a law that favors the establishment of one particular religion; that prohibits the free exercise of religion; or that restricts freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people to gather and engage in peaceful demonstrations and to petition the government for redress of their grievances. (First Amendment)
Where must we stand on this issue? Where Peter stood before the Sanhedrin! The Sanhedrin had forbidden the Apostles to speak about Jesus, but Peter responded: "We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). We must do likewise! To do anything less is to wound our conscience and our relationship with God.

Martin Luther, the great reformer, had found himself in a similar situation. At the Diet of Worms, Luther’s church had asked him to “repudiate your books and the errors which they contain." To this he responded:

  • Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest evidence...I cannot and will not retract, for we must never act contrary to our conscience....Here I stand. God help me! Amen!
Here too we must stand and do nothing “contrary to our conscience!”

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