Does Jesus value religious freedom?

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Politics and religion. For centuries the two have been at the center of so much debate. In a post Christian world, the relationship between religion and politics has become a raging inferno, tearing apart relationships and dismantling culture at its core. You may think thats a little overdramatic, until you look at social media, message board comments and other outlets for candid, “consequence free opinion sharing.” This is the context where the worst of humanity rears its ugly head as we hide behind computer screens enjoying the luxury of anonymity.

We currently live in a country where Christians love to fight, and everyone else, loves to fight with us.

This past week, legislation was proposed in the state of Arizona that would have  allowed business owners to deny services to individuals siting “religious freedom.” In this case, as you may know, it was directed at the LGBT community, giving fresh oxygen to an already blazing fire. As I listened to the radio, watched TV, and browsed my Twitter feed, my heart was broken into a million pieces as I sensed a clear reality rising to the surface in the opinions of those advocating for this law.

There are Christians out there who actually believe, “people,” are against their religion. Let me say that again. There are Christians who are fighting for their religious right to not have to love certain people.”

In other words, “As an American Christian, I have the right to religious freedom, and that freedom gives me the right to love the people I want to, and discriminate against the ones I don’t. Anyone who doesn’t share my values is, against my religion.”

Such a thought is so undeniably anti Jesus, it makes me ache in places I didn’t know I had. The enemy in this conundrum is the misunderstood concept of religious freedom. Hear me on this… religious freedom isn’t bad… freedom of every variety is very good, and freedom denied in any way is one of life’s greatest tragedies. The problem here is that Christians have chosen to believe we are entitled to religious freedom.

I am a follower of Jesus who lives in the United Sates of America. I love America, the constitution, the Bill of rights, and all the justices our country and its citizens feel compelled to fight for. I am so thankful for the freedoms given to me by the blood and sweat of soldiers who have come before me. To them and their families I owe a debt of gratitude I can never repay. I pray we as an American people, never lose sight of the value we place on fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves.

This article is not about political freedom, it is about religious freedom. In our fight for political freedoms, we have crossed over a dangerous line, and applied our political values to our faith, resulting in a dangerous misunderstanding of God’s heart, and a harmful effect on His gospel.

There is one important thing I believe we have to get right in order to move forward in a world that is increasingly writing off the church. We have to re-examine the heart of Jesus in relation to the public persona of those who claim to follow Him. When we do, we will see the massive disparity between the two. Then we can repent, and begin leaning into the grace of Jesus, restoring our voice in a world desperate for the message of the gospel that we carry within our hearts.

Here it is…

Jesus doesn’t value religious freedom

It’s true. Jesus has no interest in the protection our rights to religious liberty.  Every step Jesus took on the soil of this broken earth was a step used to lift the broken hearted, fight for the weak, and serve the disenfranchised. He wasn’t interested in himself, in any way shape or form. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He didn’t come wielding power, or with a sense of entitlement, He came with humility and a heart focused on being poured out for the sake of others.

Christian culture has taught us that we have the responsibility to fight for religious liberty, when in reality I believe Jesus would say,

“The only thing you are entitled to is denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and walking in my footsteps.?”

Friends, the biblical reality is this…

Jesus doesn’t care about your right to carry a gun. He doesn’t care about your right to keep your “hard earned money, ”  and Jesus certainly doesn’t care about your right to refuse service to whomever you please, because they are different, or in your opinion immoral. The choice to value these things over the people He gave so much for, must grieve Him deeply.

Jesus said to His disciples as He was preparing to ascend into heaven and begin the movement of the church…

“You will be my witnesses…”

What did He mean? Go fight for the right to gather, hold your opinions, and cast aside any who stand in your way? No, He meant, go live like i lived, go love like I loved, choose meekness, mercy and peace. Seek justice for the oppressed, and vindication for the abused. Oh, and by the way, give away your life any chance you get to see those things happen.

As Christians we have become far too comfortable with interpreting Jesus words to fit a tidy lifestyle that allows us to hold fast to certain ideals that do not come from His life, but flow from a heart intent on maintaining a set of rights that Jesus never gave us, and simply doesn’t value.

Paragraph 2 of the United States Declaration of Independence reads like this…

“We hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These are beautiful words that we all live under and experience the benefits of daily. Here is the problem my friends… these are not Jesus words, and although they are incredibly important words that we can choose to seek, when we give our lives to Jesus and go after Him, we take on a new role in relation to this statement. Ours, becomes the right to fight for life, liberty and happiness for others. We then embrace a new declaration…

The declaration of total dependence. This new declaration gives us a whole new set of rights, all of which are characterized by humility, sacrifice, mercy and grace. These new rights empower us to advocate for the broken hearted and to stand in the gap for the abused.

The opening statements of this declaration would need to read something like this,

“As a follower of Jesus, it is my right and privilege to seek death, slavery and the pursuit of humility so that others can find life, liberty and joy in relationship with Him.”

In the realm of God’s kingdom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not yours to claim. No, in God’s economy as a follower of jesus, your rights are, death, slavery and humility. We get to be less, so others can become more. We get to be beaten so others can be healed. We get to be enslaved so others can go free. This is the heart of Jesus, and needs to become the heart of all who claim to follow Him.

Friends, if we don’t take up a new mantra, lay down our religious rights for the sake of embracing a lifestyle that imitates our savior, I fear our influence in the world will become entirely obsolete.

Pursuit of religious freedom has crippled the church, and the only thing that can bring it back to health is the choice of every believer to answer all cultural questions with a heart that understands there is one thing that matters most. People. All People. everywhere, of every kind.

1 Peter 4:8 is the answer to the healing of our world. Love comes first, love comes second, love comes last. Its all about love. What an honor it is to serve a God that loves so well, and offers us the chance to do the same.