"When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding." (Proverbs 28:12 NIV)
Right in the middle of a heated presidential election, it is not surprising that some folks want to revive the worn out debate over "separation of church and state." The phrase itself doesn't seem to accurately depict what was on the minds of the founders of the United States of America. The big issue on the minds of those early Americans was their intention that our government must not establish a state sponsored church.
Religious people do religious things. They assemble in worship together with others who have the same faith that is precious to their hearts. This is protected under "freedom of assembly." People of sincere faith pray to God with expectation that God will hear the prayers and in some supernatural manner bring about changes for the better. The right of all citizens to pray is protected under "freedom of speech." It is natural for people whose lives are significantly improved because of their faith, to strongly desire that others have the same knowledge and opportunity to share in their faith system. The right to publicly defend and propagate our faith is also covered under the "freedom of speech."
Religious people also do secular things. Christians acknowledge our devotion to Jesus Christ by obediently living as good law abiding citizens in whatever land we reside. Even though we may not agree with all the policies of the governing authorities, we obey the instructions of Christ. "Then Jesus said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.'" (Mark 12:17 NIV) The apostle Paul elaborated on this matter, "This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing." (Romans 13:6 NIV)
For certain, non-Christians of all stripes can and do make good citizens. It is with conviction and experience that I observe that faithful Christians make the best possible citizens of any country. The reason is that a Christian knows that he or she belongs to a grand and noble spiritual kingdom whose king is the immortal King of Kings - Jesus the Son of God. And like Abraham, we believe in a future home whose builder and maker is God. We live as pilgrims here in anticipation of a future state that is ruled by a good, benevolent, kind and righteous King.
We know from examples of the great prophets of Israel that it is sometimes expedient to stand and protest against an evil king and his or her regime. There are some practices that may become the order of the day under evil rulers. God's people cannot follow blindly along and allow themselves and their loved ones to become just like all the rest of Sodom by turning a blind eye toward ungodliness. John the Baptist was born under most unusual circumstances. His entire short life was devoted to preaching repentance and preparing people for the coming reign of Messiah. He was not afraid to boldly expose the hypocrisies of a depraved ruler who openly practiced incest and mocked God's perfect law.
In the very early days of the church, our beloved apostles Peter and John were thrown into jail by the same authorities that participated in railroading Jesus Christ through a corrupted court that sentenced Him to a cruel death on the cross. Peter and John's crime was that they were boldly telling people about the resurrection of the dead through faith in Jesus Christ. Many people became believers in Jesus as Messiah and this further infuriated the authorities.
The rulers told Peter and John not to speak any more about Jesus. Of course our brave brothers could not help but to speak about their Master whom they had been with for so many days and nights. "But Peter and John replied, 'Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'"
One way that a despot maintains control of the population is to squash opposition to his or her authority. They reason in a Machiavellian manner that it is best to silence by any and all means all those who speak out against their rule. Our nation is experiencing an encouraging improvement in the number of infants that are not being killed as a means of birth control. However, there is still a wide ranging attitude of permissiveness with regard to abortion on demand. Christians are often criticized and publicly humiliated when they quietly and peacefully demonstrate against this heinous practice administered by those who have committed themselves to the preservation of life. It is this writer's conviction that abortion should be treated as a crime rather than a medical procedure.
Many people who have power to influence human events on a worldwide scale are enthused and highly motivated about issues having to do with the environment and the welfare of animals. We are almost given the impression that some of these influential leaders prefer to live in a pristine environment with dumb animals instead of with their argumentative fellow human beings. Please do not get me wrong, God-fearing people always have a proper respect and even love for all that God has created. However, we know that one soul is worth more than the entire world.
As our country goes to the polls to vote for a new President later this year, we must all remember to pray for God to choose the proper leader for our nation. Let us all ask God to give us a leader who will be truly humble before God and will be sincerely aggressive in bringing about improvements for all citizens including those who live on the fringes of society.
Presently, we are hearing more about the religious backgrounds of the various candidates than we likely ever did in America. In some countries where they have a state religion, this would not be an issue. Thank God, we do have candidates with some religious convictions that define their character. Furthermore, we are grateful that we have the freedom of conscience to choose our faith.
You are invited to all services of the Church of Christ at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Write me with any questions or comments. David Binkley, Sr., PO Box 186 Cedar Key, FL 32625. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit our web site at www.cng cedarkeychurchofchrist.com