Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s issue…
“Fighting for the Right to Do Good for Others IN JESUS NAME!”
I recently came across an article that shared some wisdom about “how to talk about Religious Liberty” in an increasingly pluralistic world. The writers counsel that such freedom is a “fundamental right” for all; a protection of the “public space to do Good,” Churches included; an “authentic pluralism” in action; and something that the Church “needs to own” for the sake of its ministry. I concur.
But, Lutherans “own” this work a bit differently than others. We do believe in the principles already stated, but we realize that God is at work in the world two distinct ways. He is at work through the “things of Caesar” not to save, but to preserve the world. And that should shock Christians a bit, since Caesars then, and many Caesars since, have often not been the best human beings in person nor the most righteous leaders in practice. While that doesn’t stop us from seeking to hold our leaders accountable to public moral and ethical standards, we also realize that we owe them our prayers and our support when legitimate leaders even when we might not agree with their policies. (Such honoring though, never means blind obedience that violates the tenets of our faith or the morals of the Scripture). Generally, then, Lutherans practice a “Reformation Restraint seeking the Truth” when engaging in cultural issues. We practice that restraint to be cognizant that temporary successes or failures in the civic realm are never to be confused with the of Jesus as the eternal solution for the issues that we face as sinful human beings. We engage the culture then, for the sake of the culture, yes, but ultimately for the right to proclaim the Gospel so that all might hear and hopefully, believe.
So, when you think about Religious Liberty, rest assured that we at the LCRL are in D.C. to fight for that Liberty for you. But, also remember that winning that fight is just the beginning of our service. For religious liberty is the right to publicly be the church, not just for ourselves, but for the sake of others. That right allows us to demonstrate how following Christ changes how we care for our families, our friends, and yes, even our enemies. In that sense, the Church defends its right to be a public voice in the culture for the purpose of taking up its responsibility to be Christ’s people for others in His name.
I’ve recently shared with you a book that talked about the “hidden” influence of Churches in the city of Philadelphia. The Book, The Other Philadelphia Story, documents of how the 2000+ congregations continually contributions to the poor and the needy that would otherwise go unfulfilled if they were not there. And, the main reason for their work is not money or power. It is about service. And that service points to a Savior who has done all things well for us. Defending religious liberty is good for the culture, good for the community, and good for the Church. Protecting the Church’s right to be the Church is part of God’s Two-Kingdom work to bless and to ultimately to offer salvation to all as a gift.