Faith and freedom are spiritual realities rooted in the mind, heart, and will of God who made all human beings in His image. Faith is defined by the writer of Hebrews as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is one of the three ways of knowing and is the only means of perception in the spiritual realm. The passage continues with the affirmation that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (verse 6). During creation, God invested Adam and Eve with volition or free will; the right or freedom to choose their own path. While the wrongful exercise of their freedom resulted in woeful consequences for themselves and their descendants, God did not create them to be robots.
Faith and freedom were pivotal pillars and principles in the founding of America. It is the basis of the claim that America is a “Christian nation”. The reality is, while our nation was founded on biblical principles, even then a significant part of the population was enslaved and were being systematically denied the exercise of both faith and freedom Over two and a half centuries later, on the eve of a national election, perhaps the most pivotal in our history, our nation struggles still to live up to the true meaning of our creed that, “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
2020 has been a momentous year! We are still being ravaged by a virus that has killed thousands, decimated families, disrupted our way of life, leaving millions unemployed and businesses closed because of the resultant economic fallout. All of this has been exacerbated by the paucity of a committed, coherent, and consistent response to the pandemic by our federal government and the divisive politicizing of proven mitigation measures. The tumult of this year includes as well the relentless toll of natural disasters – wildfires and hurricanes and the continuing civil unrest stemming from police shootings of people of color that have brought into bold relief this country’s tainted legacy of racial injustice and systemic racism.
Jesus said to His critics, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples; indeed, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). Ultimately truth is personal and, according to the Word of God has been revealed in the One Who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Truth is the spiritual adhesive that binds faith and freedom together. But for some time now, this Absolute Truth has been under siege. The conceptual descendants of Pontus Pilate who asked Jesus at his trial, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) are many, myriad, and multiplying. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the counterclaims and denials of the worldviews of secularism, naturalism, moral relativism, and postmodernism have taken an insidious toll on our apprehension and appreciation of biblical truth, tainting, tattering, and tearing the fabric of our institutions and exiling faith and freedom to the privatized closet of individual and personal experience. Truth’s eviction from the public square has left faith and freedom displaced spiritual orphans in a country that is becoming increasingly secular and carnal.
In this void and vacuum, the church alone has been called to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). We are God’s ambassadors and custodians of the truth that weds, wields, and weighs our faith and freedom. Yet, at a time when salt is needed most, “the salt is losing its savor”. In real-time, we are witnessing a widening racial and ethnic divide in the evangelical church. This fracture is being fueled and fanned by political division which exposes and exacerbates historical racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural differences in the body of Christ.
Evangelicals of every hue are bowing in obeisance to a false dichotomy. In one corner are the justifiable concerns of religious conservatives about abortion, immigration reform, biblical marriage, family values, law and order, and the co-opting of religious freedom. In the other corner is the irrefutable outcry of those who lean left politically, believe that black lives matter too, seek economic justice and opportunity for all, the strengthening of voting rights and who believe no measure of political or judicial gain compensates for the crudeness, duplicity, greed, corruption, insensitivity, and divisiveness that is being practiced, paraded and parroted at the highest levels of our government. The Truth of which the church is the primary custodian and that undergirds our faith and our freedom lies in what Pastor Andy Stanley calls “the messy middle”. This is the non-partisan, non-political high ground Christians must ascend to if we are to be more than just thermometers that measure the temperature of our culture but rather thermostats that impact it.
“God is no respecter of persons” (Romans 2:11) or for that matter, political parties. Regardless of the outcome of next week’s election, neither political party can resolve all our issues because ultimately our problems are spiritual. Knowing this, the church, unlike Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, cannot forfeit her spiritual authority, autonomy, and stewardship of the truth for to do so would imperil both faith and freedom as God has willed them. We dare not give up what is timeless for that which is temporal, surrender biblical principle for political expediency and abdicate our responsibility to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the couriers, conductors, and communicators of God’s timeless truth to the purveyors of power in whatever political garment they adorn.
“Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), not political correctness or compromise! The church is the steward of the truth that set men and women free to be all that God has called us to be. If the church fails to address our divisions, find common ground, become hostage to the horizontal and not fulfill our divine calling during this perilous time, history will rightly record how God’s people became lax and listless, sentimental and satisfied, political and petty, and vulnerable and vain, giving up the high ground in a conflict where ideas have consequences. If we fail to renew our commitment to what Dr. J. P. Moreland calls, “the soulful development of a Christian mind” the consequences for our nation may be irreparable. The Apostle Paul understood the stakes all too well. He wrote,
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV).
G. K. Chesterton, a Christian apologist of another era said, “Once people stop believing in God, the problem is not that they will believe nothing; rather, the problem is that they will believe anything.” The denial and denigration of absolute truth in American culture has perpetuated Satan’s lie and unleashed a horrific horde and lethal legion of deadly consequences upon us including family dysfunction and disintegration, violence, crime, racism, moral degeneracy, teenage suicide, corruption, rampant materialism, marital discord and divorce, sexual promiscuity and perversion, and the list goes on. It is late in the day and the time is now for every local church and every true disciple to renew our commitment to “Love the Lord God will all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind” [emphasis mine] (Matthew 22:37). Only then can we be salt and light in a nation that is losing its moral and spiritual footing.