What Leland understood – and what many Christians today must relearn – is that when one faith is enforced or even preferred by the government, society loses. When those of us who identify as Christians allow the government to pick whose freedoms are recognized, we undermine our own religious liberties. It is a misnomer to think that protecting the rights of people to believe whatever they choose is a tacit endorsement of other faiths. On the contrary, for Christians to stand for religious liberty is a statement of our confidence in the Gospel.
Beyond the importance of religious liberty to our democracy, any ideology that attempts to establish Christian political domination – in other words, a theocracy – reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of Christ and the Christian faith. At its core, the power of the Christian faith is in its ability to transform the heart, not coerce behavior. Jesus modeled this in his own ministry, refusing to set up a political theocracy on earth even as many in his day expected the Messiah would do just that.
At every turn, Christ confounded these expectations and modeled an understanding of a kingdom “not of this world.” (John 18:36). Instead of power and domination, we find Christ modeling sacrifice and forgiveness.
When professing Christians are far more enthusiastic about the glory of America than proclaiming an ancient faith that transcends our nation, they reveal themselves to be at odds with this model.
The message of Jesus seems to be far less a priority for many who name the name of Jesus than “standing for truth” and conflating Christianity with a nationalistic bent. When speakers at events held in the name of Christ are also speakers who wonder aloud whether America needs a coup like we saw in Myanmar, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission have been replaced by exceptionalism and nationalism.
If we believe that the Christian faith transforms lives, we must resist the pull to coerce people into words and behaviors that we know are worthless before God. Instead, we must trust in the power of the Gospel – and only the Gospel – to save.
Christians should embrace freedom of religion because we believe that the Gospel is light in the darkness, hope for the lost, liberation for the captive and revival for the dead. We believe that it is, most fundamentally, good news for a burdened and beleaguered world that is crying out for it.
Seeking God in America
Flynn is right about one thing: God is at work in this country.
Yet his vision of a reestablished church so sadly misses the point. God’s involvement in this country, indeed his involvement in the whole world, will not come through coercion. Rather, He is already working to revive and renew through thousands of churches who chose sacrifice and forgiveness over power and domination.
After one group chanted “Let’s go, Brandon” (a stand-in for insulting President Joe Biden) in San Antonio, I finished up a message at the Galveston Convention Center to 1,500 Texas Christians, also ready to say, “Let’s go.” But in this case, I called them to go in the way of Jesus.
One mission is the way of anger, conspiracies and more. The other involves showing and sharing the love of Jesus to a broken and hurting world.
Christians are going to have to choose which way is the way of Jesus.
This article originally appeared here.