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WHY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM MATTERS

Why does religious freedom matter. I think, from a Christian perspective.  I want to quote a verse of scripture which I often refer to when I write.  It is the prayer of Paul that is written in 1 Timothy 2. Paul says: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  This passage is very significant because if you read that carefully, Paul is effectively saying to these people, “Pray for religious freedom.”

Sometimes when I travel around I almost hear people praying for persecution which is very foolish.  If persecution comes, we pray that God will lead us through it in His sovereign will, and perhaps use that which is intended for evil for good.  But nobody prays for persecution because the darkness that it brings into society, the destructive nature of it, is evil and wrong.  The Apostle Paul says in these verses we should rather pray that the godly life would be a life of peace and dignity.  What does a godly life mean?  It is a life in which the mandate to be Christ’s witnesses is lived out.

That means the life of following His commands; to be salt and light, to do things in the world out of the power of a converted life, to do good in His name, to use our talents for His glory.  It is a life which contributes to the flourishing of Christ’s church; doing its ministry, preaching the gospel to all nations.  Paul says: ‘pray that’s a life of peace.’  Why?  The text tells us, because “it is good and pleasing in the sight of God.”  But why would that be?  If this paradigm exists in a society, it is a society in which the governing authorities are fulfilling their God-given ministry.  That ministry is stated in the Bible, in Solomon’s famous statement, “righteousness exalts a nation.”

Whether it’s Solomon’s own prayer for wisdom, or Romans 13, or 1 Peter 2, we see that government is sent by God to punish evil and reward good.  Now, if that’s what the government is doing, then those who are doing good and living consistent with truth in society are going to be free.  It also means they are not going to be punished.  They will lead lives of peace.  Meanwhile, those in society who are doing wrong will be punished instead.  The persecutor will not get away with it.  Evil will be rightly suppressed by the effective ministry of the governing authorities.

Source: Blog by Martyn Iles Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby