Prayers for the future
Religion How should believers respond as First Amendment liberties come under assault? | Joel Belz
No part of my task here at WORLD magazine is more stimulating and rewarding than to monitor your responses. That’s why, when the new issue first arrives here at our office from the printer, I always turn first to the “Mailbag” section toward the back. Even before Marvin Olasky and Andrée Seu Peterson? Yah, even before Marvin and Andrée. I can predict them—a little. You folks I can’t predict at all. I love the surprises you send our way.
But it wasn’t the surprise that grabbed my attention in a letter today from a WORLD reader who asked me to keep his name quiet for now. It was his thoughtful and earnest eagerness to let what he believes shape his behavior. From the time we launched WORLD 27 years ago, we’ve probably had no more lofty goal. So it’s gratifying when someone writes the way this young father did:
I read your article, “All but over,” and I think your assessment of the environment surrounding the First Amendment is correct. I have two young children (2 years and 7 months) and the possibility for more in the future, who will grow up in a vastly different America than I did. Part of me is saddened when I consider this likely reality. The other part of me is grateful because I know that whatever trials they (or we) walk through will only come under the hand of our Sovereign God who controls all things and to whom all authority will one day report.
The biggest question I have with the current issue is what do I do? I’d ask that you keep my identity confidential, but I serve as an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. I have sworn an oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. …” When our own government so blatantly disregards our most sacred national document, one I’ve sworn an oath to protect, where does that leave me? Where does that leave our military men and women? What am I to do in my role as public servant and Christian? These questions need answering, but the answers are not easily found. Thoughts?
How can you not appreciate the clear-eyed determination to focus on the real issues—and not the peripheral distractions? So let me wade in boldly with a few of the thoughts he asked for to guide a generation perhaps destined to live in the United States with a diminished First Amendment:
1. Don’t be a Lone Ranger. The history of various “causes” includes lots of well-intentioned people who would have represented their Lord and their cause more effectively if they’d surrounded themselves with wise, principled, practical, and straightforwardly honest counselors.
2. Pray that when any showdown comes, we as God’s people might more typically be found speaking for and defending the rights of others than our own privileges and prerogatives.
3. Pray that when any showdown comes, the main issues clearly revolve not around money but around freedom to worship.
4. Pray that when any showdown comes, the issues at stake might be clearly and unambiguously stated. God’s people need to focus on pivotal and crucial issues. They need to resist the temptation to make mountains out of molehills.
5. Pray that our causes not be eclipsed because of the moral failure of those people who represent them. How many more news accounts do we need about our one-time heroes who couldn’t even honor their own marriages?
6. Pray that our causes not be diluted or confused by our own clumsiness. How many more news accounts do we need about our one-time heroes who didn’t know what they were talking about on a particular subject—or simply didn’t have the good sense to stop talking when they ran out of something helpful to say?
7. Pray that God’s people learn to welcome the loss of their own freedoms if such loss can enhance the proclamation of the good news of salvation in Jesus.
8. Pray that God’s people, when their freedoms are threatened, will never be whiners, but people instead who glory in the privilege of giving up a gift they had never deserved in the first place.
OK, good friend. Is that enough to keep this conversation going?
Copyright © 2016 God’s World Publications, Feb. 9, 2013, Vol. 28, No. 3