Freedom & Religion
Freedom. Religion. In your mind do these terms go together? When you think of Freedom do you think of Religion? When you think of Religion do you think of Freedom?
This past Sunday, July 1, my Pastor at The Life Church, David Baird gave an excellent message. Not sure of the title… I was going to put a link on this post to an audio file but I don’t see it up yet. In any case let’s call it “Freedom & Religion”. The message focused on three relationships freedom and religion can have.
The first relationship that he spoke on was called “Freedom OF Religion”. This part was definitely prompted by the coming 4th of July Celebration on Wednesday. Pastor expressed his gratefulness for being in a country where Religion can be for the most part practiced in Freedom. He said it is great to be able to drive down the street and see churches, synagogues, mosques and temples where people can freely worship. He took the opportunity to chide those who would try to remove “God” from government contending that those kind of references did not violate government’s mandate of not establishing religion. Prior to the message we saw a video that showed an amazing number of inscriptions referring to God on government buildings and some powerful quotes from our founders concerning God and effective government.
The future of the use of the word “God”, prayer at school events and at government facilities, Bible clubs and Church meetings in public schools or displaying of the Ten Commandments anywhere in government is still not resolved and is currently up in the air. Judging by the way the courts are approaching these types of things as violations of the “separation of Church and State” I foresee the removal of the word “God” from the pledge of allegiance and from our coinage in the not too distant future. Just think, the government’s National Day of Prayer was recently ruled as unconstitutional.
The current status can be summed up by a commentary I saw on the web saying… “Though the ”place of religion in our society is an exalted one,’ the Establishment Clause, the Court continued, prescribed that in ‘the relationship between man and religion,’ the State must be ‘firmly committed to a position of neutrality‘.” I find this to be an odd interpretation of the Establishment Clause which says that government shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (I hope to write a post about it in the near future.)
Regardless of how all this shakes down I join with Pastor David in grateful thanks for the freedom that our country provides us now for practicing our faith.
The second relationship that he spoke on was called “Freedom FROM Religion”. This part focused on truths found in the book of Galatians. Our Pastor is pretty passionate about this aspect of the Christian Life. He has been quite adamant about us being a church that celebrates its freedom FROM religion. He reminds us of this regularly!
Galatians 5:13 says “For you were called to freedom” (ESV) and 5:1 states “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”. The yoke or bondage is what Pastor defines as “religion”. He defines it by saying “Religion is what we do to get God’s acceptance and approval. It is performance-based living of any kind!” As Galatians says, a life based on the law is bondage and does not bring freedom. Pastor then referenced Galatians 5:12 to reinforce the severity of leading a Christian back into this kind of “religion”. “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves”! That’s right… emasculate! That’s a nice word for “castrate.” Paul is pretty darn serious about keeping us out of dead performance-based religion!
The third relationship that he spoke on was called “Freedom FOR Religion”. For this part he went to the book of James. He said if there is a good side to religion then it is defined here in James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”. So there is a good side to religion and we are to wholeheartedly embrace it.
It’s also important to note that we at TLC seldom use the word “religion” to describe the Christianity that we are to live. The word that Pastor David would use to describe the Christian life is LOVE and not religion. For we have been set free to LOVE as it states in Galatians.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another”. We use our freedom to love… to love God, to love people! (Gal 5:13)
Because Freedom FROM Religion and Freedom FOR Religion go hand in hand we embrace both. The Apostle Paul exhorts us therefore to put off the OLD and put on the NEW! We thank God for this wonderful FREEDOM in Christ! For the “from” and the “for”!
What I’ve heard many times before applies here…
“It’s not Religion, it’s a Relationship!”
Or as singer Scott Wesley Brown used to sing in the late 70’s…
“I’m not religious, I just love the Lord!”