EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was written for, and used with the permission of, Liberty Institute.
Not many people look forward to going to court. From jury duty to car wrecks to business matters, resorting to a court is an unattractive proposition for anyone. And, for those called to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18), pursuing a legal action for a Christian can seem to threaten our very sanctification.
Though God has blessed each of his creatures with the human right to religious liberty, threats to that freedom religious liberty grow daily in our country. And, often, the chief offender is the same government tasked with protecting our freedom to believe, live, and do business according to our faith. When your religious liberty is in jeopardy, should the faithful Christian resort to a legal action?
Before proceeding with a legal action, consider the following five questions:
1. Is this an opportunity to glorify God?
2. Has the government exceeded its just authority?
4. What if you do not proceed with legal action?
German pastor of the last century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once observed, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” For Bonhoeffer, that meant joining the resistance that would not bend to the Nazi government’s immoral murderous rule.
We pray that by God’s grace we never see the persecution on the scale of the Nazis again, but Bonhoeffer’s point is well-made: injustice requires a response in order to prevent greater injustice.
You may not think your situation is all that bad or that the offense is at least tolerable and you should simply turn the other cheek. That may very well be the correct response, but before deciding on that course of action, honestly calculate what happens if you do not assert your God-imbued right to religious liberty?
Persecution rarely arrives in its final form. The erosion of the rights given to us by God is subtle and depends on inaction or apathy among the faithful. The street preacher unjustly silenced may relocate today, but what will it mean for the church down the street tomorrow?
The homeless ministry pushed off of public property by the government tonight may continue to minister to the needy on private property, but what about the youth group that wants to give blankets to the homeless on the city streets tomorrow?
A student may be silenced for mentioning the name of Jesus in a valedictory speech today, but what about the little girl who wants to acknowledge God in her school assignment tomorrow?
A professor may be denied the right to teach on intelligent design this morning, but what about the medical professor that teaches his students that life begins at conception this afternoon?
As we graciously assert the religious liberty that God has given to us against a government acting unjustly, we do more than protect our own liberties; we secure the freedom for the Gospel to advance in ways we cannot yet even imagine.
A contemporary of Bonhoeffer named Martin Neimoller lamented his apathy against the Nazi threat in Germany. He said poetically,
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist
“Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Maybe the English philosopher Edmund Burke said it more succinctly when he said, “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do so little.”
. . . . continues tomorrow . . . .
Jeremy Dys is President and General Counsel of The Family Policy Counsel of West Virginia. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family.
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