Freedom of religion*

*The Constitution of the United States guarantees that those residing within its boarders should have the freedom to exercise their beliefs as they wish save for Christianity which must be kept private and practiced either within the confines of one’s own home or house of worship due to it’s highly offensive nature.

You mean there isn’t an asterisk within the First Amendment of the Constitution?  Could have fooled me.

I first started ranting to friends and family about this shortly before this years inauguration.  In the days leading up to the events, the pastor that had been chosen for the Benediction, Lou Giglio, stepped down from the honor amid a brewing controversy.

That controversy?  He had spoken out, according to his own recollection, about fifteen to twenty years before, against homosexuality, stating that it is a sin, (but here’s the real kicker-) but that they should still be loved and welcomed into the church.

The audacity.

One need only go as far as the comments on any news story on their homepage to see the strong reaction that people have to the message of Christianity.  One person even mentions Jesus in a comment and then five jump in and bash them for their “antiquated” and “false” beliefs, telling them to “keep their religion to themselves.”

Think about it.

I am sure that you have all had times where you have gathered with friends, or even family in a casual setting and the conversation turned to religion.  If those gathered were of mixed faiths, everything is fine, regardless of the religion being discussed and it even remains a casual discussion until the name of Jesus is put on the table.  Then things get serious and people begin to take offense.

How is it that someone that taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 19:19) can be a source of such offense?

I believe it comes from two sources.

1- the “audacity” of his assertion that “…I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NLT)

2- the fact that we, who are charged to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NLT) are flawed humans.

In my limited studies, I have not become aware of another school of religion that claims to be ‘the only way.’ Many Eastern systems of belief teach that there are many paths to truth and that what really matters is reaching the destination, not necessarily the path you take to get there.  This thought that all religions are “essentially the same at their heart,” has taken a strong hold and is commonly espoused.

Unfortunately, if one is a follower of Jesus Christ, they know it could not be further from the truth and is instead, very harmful.  Let’s look at that verse again:

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 (NLT)

No one.  Not a single person.  Doesn’t matter how “good” that person is.  Why?

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous- not even one.”

Romans 3:10 (NLT)

We are all sinners.  Every single one of us, was born into it.  It is inescapable in this world.  No matter how much we try to “be a good person,” we still fall short of God’s view of what it is to be good and righteous.  I believe it was the film Fireproof that painted the picture so well.  God’s standards are so high that to think that “I hate ____” is the same as murder.  Lusting after another is adultery.  We all know that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23 NLT)

This is a far cry from other systems of belief that claim that, so long as you try to be good you will be rewarded in the hereafter/next life/etc.

But Jesus stood up and offered an answer.  That through Him, we could find guaranteed salvation.  Guaranteed!  What other system of belief lets you find peace knowing exactly what will happen to you when your time comes?  Rather than being a gamble, it’s assured.

But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift.  For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin.  For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

Romans 5:15-16 (NLT)

Then you mix this with the fact that those trying to pass this message along, (usually in clumsy electronic formats via posts, e-mails, texts, or blogs *cough*) are all flawed humans.  We misspeak.  We forget key parts of our “argument” when in the heat of the moment of a religious debate.  We screw up completely and come off as “preachy” or “greater than thou” instead of making it clear that we are coming alongside the other person as a fellow seeker and sinner offering the hope of the gift of grace that we have found.

So in the end, yes, I can see some of why it seems as though in this day and time, there is an asterisk after freedom of religion whenever it is brought up either by news outlets or even in general discussion.  Christianity can be very offensive depending on how it is presented.  We’re told to go out and teach.  Some see that as being told to go out and point fingers saying, “nu-uh, you’re wrong!”  But that is completely missing the spirit of the message- the grace of it.  If we miss the grace and leave it out of our discussions of Jesus, it’s as though we’re just passing on the message of a man who lived a good life.  But the fact is, that he died a sacrificial death for each and every one of us, in hope that we would accept the gift of grace despite our unworthiness, and thereby be reunited with our Heavenly Father.

CPB

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