On Religious Liberty3
Every Christian should remember these sayings of Jesus:
"The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil." (John 7:7)
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18)
"If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father." (John 15:24)
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt. 5:11-12)
These are a few of the Lord's sayings that remind us that the world hates Christ, his Father, and his followers, that is: the church. Anyone who knows church history has seen this truth demonstrated over and over again. And not just long ago, or far away. Sometimes the persecutions were and are relatively mild, at other times as ghastly, gory and bloody as can be.
By "world" in this instance the Lord means the "unholy trinity" of the devil, the opinions of prevailing culture and our own bent sinful nature."
This being the case the religious liberty that exists in America is a miracle and a gift. A true and precious gift! And we must never squander the rich blessings of God that people have prayed for, suffered for and fought for. We must not let them be taken away, or abridged, but rather expanded.
Presently many church leaders are joining forces simply to restore what we all freely had just a few months ago. Many officials, elected and appointed, have used this pandemic to express the world's hatred of Christ and his people as Jesus teaches. They have unfairly burdened churches as the article will show; but every Christian is duty bound to resist and to reclaim the rare gifts that God has put into our hands.
If "stay at home" orders and "social distancing" were urged out of love for neighbor, there is another and greater love for neighbor at stake here: the right to worship according to one's conscience without official interference. Jesus makes very clear that: "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25)
Take those words literally. "For man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Those words are made known in the church's corporate worship and Holy Communion.
Though I believe serious mistakes were made early on by churches we should not condemn any churchman. This came upon us too suddenly, and no one had time to think. We all did the best we could based on the light that each of us is given by God.
For many it meant closing the church. For others it meant the use of technology to broadcast a modicum of hope to their people. For still others it meant parking lot services. Some even attempted to conduct Holy Communion over the internet. On this last matter our Synodical President and District Presidents issued a strong warning and word of correction. But even the few pastors who did this, I believe, were trying their best to do conduct their ministry when it was needed as never before in modern times.
But the past is the past. Now the church knows better. And should she abdicate even the tiniest fraction of her Divine Gift of religious liberty, her ecclesiastical virginity if you like, to any future emergency then she will be guilty of grave sin.