By Daniel Darling, Lifeway.
Religious liberty has been all over the news lately. Most Christians are (rightly) concerned about the increasing encroachment on Christian faith and practice. But pastors are sometimes uneasy about discussing religious liberty with their congregation and friends. For some, it seems antithetical to a gospel that calls us to lay down our rights for Christ’s sake. And yet, fighting for religious liberty today, in a gracious but firm manner, helps the gospel advance tomorrow.
So while pastors should be careful to never inject partisanship into the pulpit and should always focus on the biblical text, there is a place for helping God’s people think through this crucial, controversial issue.
Here are three reasons pastors should feel comfortable engaging the topic:
1. Jesus talked about religious liberty.
Jesus’s time on earth came in an entirely different context than present-day America. His audience did not have the ability to shape the government as citizens of a representative democracy like us. Still, his ministry was not without references to the kingdoms of man and the Kingdom of God. In fact, you might say that Jesus’s preaching of the Kingdom was, at least in part, a repudiation of the Roman powers and their worship of Caesar. Jesus’s followers swore allegiance not to the man in Rome, but to the God-man whose reign was inaugurated at Jesus’s first advent.
What’s more, Jesus explicitly delineated the separation of powers. When queried about the Roman tribute, Jesus held up a coin with Caesar’s image and said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” In other words, Caesar has certain rights over citizens, such as collecting taxes and enforcing laws, but there are certain rights that are not Caesar’s to have.