I grew up in a family of patriots. No, I’m not talking about New England football. I grew up in a home that loved America. I had two grandfathers who both served our nation in the Army and Navy. I also grew up in the home of a fireman who served our community faithfully. As a boy, my eyes would light up as I would see my father going down the road in the fire truck with a large American flag flapping in the wind. When I married my wife, we added new layers to that history as her father served in the Marines. Needless to say, we are proud patriotic Americans.
Sadly, through the years we have watched our great nation make serious missteps in the political sphere that is currently producing corrupt fruit. We have also watched conservative evangelical circles become polluted by progressive voices who do not have a patriotic commitment for America and also view America as a failed (or failing) experiment. Not only is that a wrong-headed approach to life in America, it directly assaults the great freedoms we enjoy as Christians in this land that we love.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is critically important and a shift one degree in either direction could result in catastrophic problems that would not only hinder Christians in America, but could potentially open up state sponsored persecution against God’s people. The First Amendment reads:
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.
We must avoid the error of conflating the Church of Jesus and the nation of America. However, as the Church of Jesus lives, worships, and serves Christ from the soil of America, we can be thankful for the wonderful privileges we enjoy and privileges we must work to preserve.
Freedom to Worship
According to our United States Constitution, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. This language is vitally important to our republic. Christians must maintain more than appreciation for such freedom, but I would argue that we should go into the public sphere and voice our support through political avenues and exercise our right to vote for or against leaders who work to threaten such freedom.
When God’s people are oppressed and hindered from worship, it results in major trials and tribulation. We see this with Israel in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and the early Church under the direct pressure of the Jewish Sanhedrin. While persecution never stops the advancement of God’s people, we should not walk through life as spiritual masochists looking for pain. We should be happy to live as Christians in America as we enjoy the freedom to assemble for worship and service of Yahweh.
As we reflect upon the government overreach during COVID in America, we not only see how quickly progressive movements can develop that threaten our freedom, but we also learn to value the freedom to worship our God as he has prescribed in the holy Scriptures. Such freedom must be preserved.
Freedom of the Press
Most often when we hear discussion regarding the “freedom of the press” within the First Amendment it’s centered primarily upon the function of the media and the printing and publication of news. While it is important to have a government accountable to the people rather than one that rules over the people—avoiding censorship of the press also directly impacts the functionality of the Church of Jesus.
If you survey the history of the freedom of the press as an ideology of democracy, you will find that on December 2, 1766, the Swedish parliament passed legislation known as the Freedom of the Press Act. This is believed to be the first step in establishing this principle and setting an example of freedom for other countries around the world.
The freedom of the press is important for accurate reporting of news in the public sphere and for the printing and publication of the gospel apart from government restriction. When we look at China, we see a people who are oppressed by leaders who censor what they read and have access to through social media and print publications. Christianity is illegal in China. While the Church continues to grow underground in China, we as free Christians in a free country should value the opportunity to continue to print the world’s most printed book in world history—the Bible.
Freedom of Speech
The worship and service of God involves the freedom to speak in his name in private circles and on his behalf in the public sphere. When Christians assemble, we worship God by praising him through the public reading of Scripture, prayer, song, and the proclamation of the gospel. This happens weekly in worship services, but as we scatter out into the city streets, subway, trains, planes, and more broad public sphere circles—we continue to speak in the name of Jesus Christ.
Jesus has given his people a commission that we often reference as the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). To obey Jesus involves speaking in his name and for his glory. That doesn’t always result in peace and support from higher authorities.
When the apostles spoke in Jesus’ name, the Jewish authorities felt threatened by such preaching. What was the result? The arrested Peter and John following the healing of the crippled man and charged them not to speak in Jesus’ name publicly (Acts 4:18). They were attempting to control the spread of the good news. Peter and John responded by saying that they must speak of what they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).
As they continued to preach and teach in Jesus’ name, the Sanhedrin became furious. They arrested the apostles once more and after beating them, they charged them once more to refrain from speaking in Jesus’ name. The apostles responded by saying, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). As persecution increased, the boldness of the apostles increased as well. As threats and restrictions continue to mount in America against the Christian church and the freedom of speech, we must maintain our commitment to obey God regardless of the consequences.
As we celebrate our nation’s independence and the freedom of America—may we maintain commitment to preserve these great freedoms that enable us to faithfully serve and worship our God which not only impacts our families generationally, but it likewise has a ripple effect upon the world beyond the borders of America. Don’t just sit there—do something. Enjoying freedom as a Christian is not the same as preserving freedom. Speak up. Vote. Engage. Do it all for the glory of God.
Happy 4th from a patriotic Christian in America!