Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
As Christians who currently enjoy religious freedom in this country and desire the same for our brothers and sisters around the world, we cannot stand idly by as others within our nation are having their religious freedoms attacked.
You may think I’m writing about the religious freedom of Christians in this country, and while what I’m writing about does touch on our religious freedom, I’m focused on the religious freedoms of others at the moment.
Why should Christians in America be concerned about other religions experiencing the freedom we desire? Because Christ’s love compels us to do what is right.
Think about it. What did Jesus tell us to do to those who reject the salvation of God that comes through faith in Christ alone? He told us to love them and to continue to offer them His love. What a powerful way to love others, to stand up for their freedom to worship as they desire, and to do so in the name of Christ.
Over the past several years there has been an increase in attacks against Muslims and mosques in the U.S. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said we are to love and bless our enemies. Muslims may be our enemies, spiritually speaking, but they are the same people we are supposed to reach out to and love, just as the Samaritan lovingly reached out to and protected the Jewish man.
In Luke 6:31, Jesus said we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Some may want to claim this is selfishly motivated, but note that it is a teaching of Christ, not of man.
God gives us additional perspective on this in Isaiah 16:3-4. He says that the Israelites were to be a refuge for Moabites, who were being oppressed. The Moabites were their enemies, and they did not worship the same God. Nevertheless, God executes justice for the oppressed. How can we do less?
On a more secular level, why should others care about and defend our constitutional freedoms if we will not care about and defend the constitutional freedoms of others? It is clear that many of our founding fathers were Christians, and it is equally clear that they willingly defended the rights for people to worship as they desired, to the point of doing so with their lives when necessary.
How should we defend the religious freedoms of others? By defending their freedom of worship! Speak out in a public way as to that right, and even stand with them if they make a public plea!
Certainly, some Muslims may burn Christian churches in other parts of the world, but where a mosque is burned down in this country, we should offer to help them rebuild it. The Lord tells us in Romans 12:14-15 that we are to bless those who persecute us, and weep with those who weep. One wonderful way to bless them is to weep with them and help them when they have been persecuted.
We must do these things because God will use these acts of Jesus’ love through us for His glory and for their good. I realize that for the sake of the Gospel they may be our enemies, but according to Romans 5:10, we were all enemies of God, and yet Jesus sacrificed Himself for us nonetheless. As God has shown mercy to us, then we should be merciful through Christ to others.
Remember, God is patient because He desires that no one perish. May we be patient and compassionate as well. To do so is to fulfill the Law of Christ, which is to love your neighbor as yourself, by being concerned about their needs, and not just your concerns. (Philippians 2:3-4)
What Christ did for us, for the entire world, He did while we were still His enemies so that we might be impacted by His love for us. That strategy of Christ is still valid and powerful today. Through such Christ-like love and compassion, we can also demonstrate Christ’s love to them, and to all others.
Christ stood up as a refuge for us, and as a wall between us and our enemies of darkness and death. We can imitate Christ by standing up as a refuge of sorts for those who suffer religious oppression.
This would not only apply to Muslims in our nation, but also to the most oppressed religious group in our nation: the Jews. Jesus went out of His way to show love to the Samaritans, the most hated group in Israel in His day. If we are going to imitate Jesus, as the Bible tells us to, we must love and bless the people of these other religious groups, seeking for them the same safe haven of worship we desire for ourselves.
Our love for, and protection of them in a Christ-like way may be something God uses in turning them, as well as others, to faith in Christ, one heart at a time.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.