Don’t ask me to keep My Beliefs inside the Church
Recently, I was listening to a radio debate on the topic of abortion. One person called in and said that religious people should keep their beliefs outside the public square and inside the church where they belong. Now, I don’t wish to discuss the issue of abortion here; it’s too broad a topic to handle justly in a short column. I do, however, want to address the bigger issue that the caller brought up and that’s the issue of where a person’s religious beliefs belong. Of course, as a Christian pastor, I can speak only from a Christian perspective.
Jesus came into this world to bring in the Kingdom of God. Over and over again throughout the Gospels, Jesus spoke and taught of the Kingdom of God. Jesus came to bring in His Kingdom and, as followers of Jesus, he has bequeathed that task to me and to others who follow Jesus.
So, what is the Kingdom of God? Put simply, the Kingdom of God exists wherever God’s will is done. Is it God’s will that people go through life without meaning, purpose, or direction? No, so I seek to share my faith with others.
Is it God’s will that I neglect my body? No, so I seek to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods (sometimes).
Is it God’s will that elderly people sit at home alone, isolated, and lonely? Of course not, so our church seeks to visit and minister to our elderly shut-ins.
My point is this: As Christians, we are called to seek God’s will in our own personal lives and in the lives of those around us.
Now, what happens when an entire culture is doing things that go against God’s will? The same principle holds true. As Christians, we are called to struggle against evil and injustice (things that work against God’s Kingdom) wherever we find it.
For example, it was John Newton’s deep faith in God that led him to fight for the abolition of the English slave trade. It was William Wilberforce’s pursuit of God’s Kingdom that led him to argue for stricter child labour laws in England. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, considered the American Civil Rights Movement a spiritual struggle against segregation and poverty. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, acted as a voice for the poor and against military repression before dying as a martyr while preaching a sermon. It was Cesar Chavez’s concern for Mexican migrant workers in the United States that led him to help found the National Farm Workers Association which led to numerous improvements in the quality of life of these desperately poor men, women, and children.
I could go on but these examples show that committed Christians have always sought to end injustice wherever they have found it. In so doing, they have simply obeyed the command of Scripture: ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8) Indeed, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is largely a description of a society where justice and righteousness reign (Matthew 5-7).
Can you see now why, as Christians, I and others like me feel compelled to stand up and let our voices be heard when we see things happening in our culture that we perceive to be unjust? You can disagree with me on an issue; you can argue with me; you can present other ideas and other viewpoints. That’s all great. Just don’t ask me to keep my beliefs inside the church. That’s the one thing I just cannot do.