We continue the series, The Church and Politics. If you’ve not been following the series please go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/ to read the last thirteen instalments.
The paradox of Christianity is that it is at once an inclusive and exclusive concept. The inclusivity of the Christian worldview lies in the fact that God threw an open invitation for salvation to the whole world: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that NO ONE need be destroyed; by believing in him, ANYONE can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3:16 MSG. And he backed that initial invite up with yet another invite, like some sort of confirmation: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NLT And so in Christianity everyone is welcome – the rich, the poor, the tired, the weary, the socially disadvantaged, the intellectual, the simple, the troubled, the depressed, the messed up… everyone is welcome!
Despite that inclusivity however we find this statement by Peter: “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘the stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12 NLT. That statement was reinforced by Jesus when he made an exclusive claim on truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NLT. Truth by nature is exclusive. The moment Jesus made an exclusive claim on truth Christianity became an exclusive religion despite its inclusive invitation. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 NLT.
The exclusive essence of Christianity lies in the fact it’s the only religion in the world where fate in the afterlife is not dependent on human effort but on the grace of God. For salvation we simply accept what Jesus has done. Salvation is not based on human goodness or good works: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT. If you have to do penance or do benevolence to earn salvation it’s not Christianity. And the reason is simple. Human goodness is civic responsibility. Sin is a criminal indictment – a capital offence. You can’t as a criminal on death row insist on acquittal because you did good to someone yesterday. It’s patently ridiculous and no court will hear it. By the same token no amount of good done by man can exculpate sin. Someone has to die. Sin is a capital offence. Jesus died in our place in a feat of vicarious liability. The claims of justice are met by the death of Jesus so we walk free. Blood has been shed. And so at the core of Christian faith is recognition of the centrality of the cancerous, ubiquitous, odoriferous quantity called sin in the human condition. The claim of Christianity is that the blood of Jesus is the efficacious solution to the sin problem. That no other solution will work because they’re human effort based. But the Christian worldview is not the only viewpoint out there. There’s an opposing worldview called secular humanism or liberalism. It does not recognise sin, only offences against the state.
Secular humanism says man is a law unto himself. It edits God out of the equation. It’s about human reason and ethics. It’s a naturalistic philosophy. As a philosophical movement secular humanism rejects religious dogma and supernaturalism as the bases of morality and decision making. And when you slide the scale of that philosophical perspective the Bible soon becomes hate speech. Every time the Christian preaches he’ll be accused of hate speech, and for hate speech you go to jail. Secular humanism therefore seeks to criminalise Christianity. This is the trajectory of so-called liberal societies. Secular humanism seeks an “inclusive” society but it excludes the tenets of Christianity. And it wants to fundamentally redefine sociology. Given the potential for the curtailing of freedoms and criminalization of the tenets of Christianity, can Christians really afford not to participate in politics?
In his seminal 1941 speech President Delano Roosevelt listed four freedoms:
1. Freedom of speech
2. Freedom of worship
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear.
These are fundamental freedoms to any society and they’re particularly germane to Christianity. If we cannot preach the message of salvation we do not have freedom of speech. The word of God commands us to preach the gospel. Unto us has been committed the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. God is not fighting anybody. He wants the world reconciled to him. “God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 MSG. And so freedom of speech is pertinent to Christianity. Allied with this is the second fundamental freedom, freedom of worship. This is still highly curtailed in many countries. There is no freedom of worship in places like North Korea for instance. The state (read the Great Leader) is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.
In the Romania of old, you went to prison or paid with your life to be a Christian. In this regard I greatly recommend Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured for Christ. Tortured for Christ is the tale of the price many paid to be Christians in Romania in the mid-1900s. Richard Wurmbrand served a total of 14 years in jail for his faith in Christ Jesus. He spent 3 of those years in solitary confinement in a windowless cell with no lights. He was released from his first imprisonment in 1956 after serving eight and half years. He was warned not to preach the gospel. He was again arrested in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. Physical torture included mutilation, burning and being locked in a large frozen icebox. The soles of his feet were so beaten the flesh peeled off.
What is amazing however is how Roosevelt’s four freedoms actually dimension the Christian faith. As per freedom of worship Joshua the military head of state laid out before the Israelites their fundamental right to choose or reject God: “If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.” Joshua 24:15 MSG.
As per freedom of speech, God commands, “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute!” Proverbs 31:8-9 MSG.
As per freedom from want, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And my God will liberally supply – fill until full, your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 AMP.
As per freedom from fear, the word of God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT. “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 MSG. Long before this writing David famously wrote with confidence, “Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me.” Psalms 23:4 NET.
In other words, God guarantees us the four charters of freedom in President Roosevelt’s 1941 speech. It is your responsibility as a Christian to make sure Roosevelt’s four charters of freedom are guaranteed by participating in the political process. If you don’t you may find yourself someday in prison for believing in Jesus Christ.
We continue the series next week. To read full version of The Church and Politics Part 14: The four freedoms, go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
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