How to Use Our Freedom to Serve Our Nation

In good news for evangelical Christians, the US Supreme Court sided last Friday with Colorado web designer Lorie Smith, who claimed a First Amendment right to refuse to design wedding websites for same-sex couples.

Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom brought the case to the court and said after the ruling, “Disagreement isn’t discrimination, and the government can’t mislabel speech as discrimination to censor it.” She added: “This is a win for all Americans. The government should no more censor [her client] for speaking consistent with her beliefs about marriagethan it should punish an LGBT graphic designer for declining to criticize same-sex marriage. If we desire freedom for ourselves, we must defend it for others.”

From good news to tragedy: an eighteen-year-old woman and a twenty-year-old man were killed in a mass shooting early Sunday morning at a Baltimore block party. Twenty-eight others were injured; three are in critical condition this morning. Just two days into July, this was one of three mass shootings in the month and one of 338 mass shootings in the US this year.

Meanwhile, mass riots are gripping France following Tuesday’s shooting of a teenager by a police officer. Forty-five thousand police were deployed and more than seven hundred people were arrested by early Sunday. One historian said of the rioters, “They’re destroying the social compact which is essential for democracy.”

The Battle of Gettysburg ended on this day

There is no gift that cannot be misused, including the gift of freedom.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” However, his assassination tragically demonstrated that behavior can only be regulated and restrained to a point. Human laws cannot change human hearts.

The Battle of Gettysburg, the most decisive conflict of the American Civil War, ended on this day in 1863. But it would be more than a hundred years before the Civil Rights Act would prohibit discrimination in employment and education and outlaw racial segregation in public places.

Like every other form of freedom, religious freedom can be misused. Having religious liberty includes the liberty to reject religion, a choice Americans are increasingly making. God made us to love him and each other (Matthew 22:37-39), but love is a choice which, by definition, requires the freedom to choose. Consequently, our Creator honors the freedom he gives us even when we misuse that freedom in tragic ways.

“An example to all the believers”

As our nation approaches our Independence Day celebration, today’s reflections have been prompted by a verse I read recently as part of my personal Bible study. Every time I see it, it strikes a chord deep within me: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

The moral and spiritual foundations upon which our republic was built are under greater threat than ever before in American history. What, then, “can the righteous do?”

To answer the psalmist’s question, consider Paul’s testimony to the Thessalonian Christians: “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). Paul and his missionary team not only preached biblical truth, but they also modeled it personally: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (v. 5b).

Consequently, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (vv. 6–7) and “your faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (v. 8).

When Christians declare biblical truth and model it personally, the Holy Spirit uses our words and witness to lead others to share our faith. Then these believers become examples to others in word and witness so that the gospel movement multiplies, changing the culture and, eventually, the world (cf. Acts 17:6).

The gospel in horse taxis

On this July 3, I am grateful to live in a nation that honors my freedom of religion, but I know that America’s hope does not lie with America’s laws. If God’s people will choose to declare and defend biblical truth, wherever we are and whatever the consequences, God’s Spirit will use God’s word to change hearts and transform nations.

I am thinking today of a Cuban pastor for whom I pray every morning. He is one of the most godly and courageous believers I have ever met. I received word a few days ago that he was on his way to a meeting of one hundred churches in his region that will participate in his ministry’s Vacation Bible Schools.

However, Cuba is facing its most dire fuel shortage in years, with lines stretching for blocks even at gas stations where there has been no fuel for days. So Carlos and his colleagues traveled to the conference in horse-drawn taxis.

Oswald Chambers noted, “When we choose deliberately to obey God, then he will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us.”

Is your omnipotent Lord waiting on you today?