The Pastor's Pen
St. Peter writes, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pt 2.13). Paul is even more direct in Romans chapter 13, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (1). This can seem remarkable when we consider some of the corrupt, ungodly, even evil governments over the course of human history. On a more positive note, you can read about some of the happy circumstances that accompanied the founding of our nation on the facing page in an article by former Lutheran Hour speaker Rev. Ken Klaus as we celebrate the fourth, the birthday of our nation.
As a people, we especially celebrate the freedoms for which our forefathers fought and died. Freedoms that are embedded in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights: the freedom to assemble, the freedom to bear arms, the freedom to worship among others. The forefathers of our church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, came to this country seeking that freedom and not just for themselves. Look for an upcoming report on our recently completed District convention and the presentation by Rev. Michael W. Newman on the “gospel DNA” that is Missouri.
We must be honest; our freedom of religious expression is under attack in our society. The intolerance of tolerance, the new standard or expression of freedom, requires that we do not judge the opinions, the convictions, or the life-style choices of anyone. What is “right” for any individual in their own eyes “tolerance” requires that we affirm. This is simply not possible, or at least not in the way “tolerance” demands. God’s word is clear on many of the hot-button items on today’s agenda. Abortion is murder. Marriage is the life-long union of one man and one woman. Sin is sin and as Paul reminds us, “the wages of sin is death” (Rm 6.23). This presents us with a duty, a Christian duty, to live out our vocation of citizen in a country that was founded on religious liberty.
This duty becomes ours not because of the civil freedom assured to us by the laws of this country, rather, because of the freedom won for us by Christ on the cross and declared from the open tomb – the freedom from sin. By faith, through the water and word of baptism, we are citizens of heaven and our mandate is simply this: as you are going, wherever you are going “disciple all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Mt 28.19-20). Expressed another way, our freedom from sin in Christ, places us in service to creation. Certainly, the material resources of creation that sustain and satisfy life, but especially the lives we encounter at every turn – for this one too, Christ died that he or she might live to the glory of God for all eternity.
So this fourth of July, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, let us hold dear the freedoms afforded to us by this nation but especially the freedom won for us on the cross of Christ. Let us cling to that freedom in faith and emboldened by it, let us share the joy of salvation with all people. Amen.