DOUGLAS — People of faith in America should never take their religious freedom for granted, because there are sinister forces chipping away at it on a daily basis.
The Washington Free Beacon reported 1,400 attacks on religious freedom in 2016, up 133 percent since 2011. In fact, public records and media accounts of legal disputes brought on by religious belief resulted in a survey entitled “The Hostility to Religion in America.”
The infringement and hostility toward religion does not confine itself to states like California, Washington, and Colorado. Georgia has also had its share of encroachment into the religious life of its citizens. The increasing number of these incidents challenging Georgians’ right to live out their faith is beginning to cause people to coalesce at the grassroots level to voice their desire for religious freedom legislation.
The Smyrna Baptist Association Executive Committee met last week and approved a resolution on Religious Liberty. Ed Lycett, pastor of Sand Hill Baptist Church and member of the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee submitted the resolution.
The resolution (1) provided numerous examples of the disastrous results of governmental efforts to interfere with individual conscience and religious beliefs, (2) urged Georgia legislators to adopt a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and (3) pledged to defend the God-given and constitutionally guaranteed right of every American citizen to worship God freely in thought, word and action according to the dictates of his or her conscience.
The resolution also commended Georgia Baptist Public Affairs Representative Mike Griffin and Executive Director J. Robert White for their “tireless work at the State Capitol on behalf of Georgia Baptists.”
In one “whereas” the resolution stated, “It is the mandate of the church to be the salt of the earth to preserve the fabric of our culture from total immorality, chaos, lawlessness, and anarchy.”
Jesus said. “But if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men.”
This has to be one of the most solemn, forthright, consequential statements Jesus ever uttered. Salt cannot serve its purpose if it remains in the saltshaker. Therefore, no Christian or church should live in isolation. We must not be of the world, but we must be in the world, making a difference. We are not to be like the monastics, who believe that to be a Christian is to separate oneself from society and live a life of spiritual contemplation.
Christians are to permeate the world including the realms of business, education, music, art, communication and, yes, politics.
Salt provides flavor. The best cooks in the world will flavor their finest recipes with a “pinch of salt,” because it adds just the right kind of seasoning. When Paul wrote Titus he stated that Christians are to “adorn the Gospel.” We are to make the Gospel tasty and attractive by the way we live our lives.
Unfortunately, many people in the world are not going to see it that way. John MacArthur, well-known pastor and author, stated, “The world does not value whatever taste or aroma it sees in Christianity. Paul reminds us that Christians are an ‘aroma from life to life’ and a ‘fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved,’ but are ‘an aroma of death to death’ among ‘those who are perishing’ (II Corinthians 2:15-16).
You see, salt is also an antiseptic and when it is rubbed into a wound it stings. In a corrupt world Christians are neither attractive nor flavorful to the majority of unbelievers. Christians are a sting to the world, pricking its conscience and making it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s truth.
But even more importantly to our discussion here, salt is meant to be a preservative and an antiseptic. We can see the direction in which the world is headed; and we don’t want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a country where they are under bondage and persecuted for their faith
So, we want to add flavor as “an aroma of life to life.” We want to serve as an antiseptic to provide healing and recovery to those who need restoration and strength. But we also want to be a preservative to a nation that is tending toward corruption. It is true that godly living retards moral decay and wickedness in the home, the school, the workplace and in the government.
The most sobering words from Jesus in Matthew 5: 13 indicate that if the salt has lost its savor there is no apparent way for the flavor to be restored. That is why we as individual Christians and as the church of the living God must be “steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.” That is why we must stay clean and close to Jesus.
If we lose our influence we are only worthy of being “trodden under the foot of men.” We are not there yet. There is hope in Christ. With the help of God’s spirit, we can turn the tide. So, we need to rise to the occasion. All of us need to be in a spirit of constant self-evaluation, confession, repentance, and revival. A genuine revival can impact the whole of life in a church, a community, a city, a state, or the nation.
In the meantime, we can stand up against the foes of religious liberty. Maybe your association or your church can pass a resolution on religious liberty like Smyrna Baptist Association has done. They are to be commended. See the attached resolution.