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?
5. Examine your heart. Glorify God in your legal action.
The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV) Because of our heart’s desperate sickness, before proceeding with legal action we ought to carefully examine our own hearts.
For some, proceeding with legal action will play well into our own ego. Many lawsuits go entirely unnoticed, but when you literally make a federal case out of the government’s violation of your religious liberty, it tends to make the news. If the fame (or infamy) of such a lawsuit will prevent you from bringing glory to God, back away.
Pride may evidence itself in other ways. Some may choose not to file a lawsuit out of piety. That is wrong also. Lawsuits are a bad venue to show the rest of the world just how great of a Christian we are. Look closely at your motivations and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any false pride in your own spirituality.
Still others will react out of bitter zeal. They will thump their chest and assert their rights as if they were the sole defender of those rights. To them, unless they file a lawsuit, the whole of civilization will come to a screeching halt. No. Christ is sovereign over all. He stood at the beginning of time and foreordained what we now call history. He does not need us to accomplish his purposes, though he often uses us to bring himself glory. God has given you rights, use them as a steward ought, not in a way that overshadows their purpose.
And, then, there is fear and uncertainty. Lawsuits are daunting things. Litigants will go through invasive discovery disputes and depositions. The media might show up on your doorstep when you least expect it. Your ministry could suffer from it. Will your relationship with the local government, and the people who staff it, suffer as a result of asserting your religious liberty? That is why it is critical that your examine you heart.
Litigation can be a great means to bringing glory to God. That is why it is so important for us to have our hearts firmly committed to honoring God in all things – even in filing a lawsuit. If, after prayerfully examining your heart, you determine that the right course of action is to proceed with legal action, then do not second-guess the decision; rather, glorify God in your litigation.
If, however, the Holy Spirit causes you to check yourself and pull back, abide by your conviction. God is not glorified in the litigation martyr who ignores his convictions and runs headlong into an ill-advised legal proceeding.
God has given you a great benefit to live in the United States of America. Few people on the globe are afforded such luxuriant protections of the liberty that God has given to us as a people. Much is, therefore, required of us.
View the freedom – and the protections of religious liberty codified in our Bill of Rights, in particular – that God has given to you through our government as a gift you are to steward for God’s glory.
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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