FAQ 7: Why Do You Promote Religious Freedom?
We've been doing a blog series to address some of the questions we get asked frequently. If you missed them, see our previous posts: Is it Really Possible to Have Peace Between Christians and Muslims?, How Does Peacemaking Relate to Evangelism?, Why Should We Bother with Peacemaking?, Did Jesus Come to Bring Peace or a Sword?, Are You Teaching Chrislam? and What is Jesus-Centered Peacemaking?
Frequently Asked Question #7:
Why do you promote religious freedom?
Many people love talking about freedom of religion as long as you are talking about their religion. Christians speak out against persecution of Christians, but few also speak out against the persecution of other faiths. Here are five reasons we promote religious freedom for all.
1. Freedom of religion is based on the creation story.
God gave Adam and Eve freedom to either obey or not obey His commands (Genesis 1–3). Because God wanted them to choose to love and obey Him, He gave them freedom of choice. True relationship demands freedom to choose. We need to imitate God by giving people freedom to choose.
2. Freedom of religion is based on the life of Christ.
Jesus repeatedly called people to follow him. But he gave people freedom to choose. Some followed him and others didn’t. In one of the most poignant moments in the Gospels, the writer records that Jesus felt love for the rich young ruler who decided he would not follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). Jesus demonstrated a love that gave people freedom to accept or reject him. We need to imitate Jesus by giving people freedom to choose.
3. Freedom of religion is based on the Golden Rule.
Jesus said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Surely everyone wants freedom to follow their conscience without coercion. We must grant to everyone the same thing that we desire.
4. Freedom of religion is based on the love command.
Jesus said one of the greatest commands is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The standard for love in this command is the phrase “as yourself.” In other words, love means that I treat my neighbors just how I want to be treated. I want the freedom and protection to worship. This, then, is what I should also want for my neighbor.
5. Freedom of religion is based on justice.
The Old Testament frequently defines justice in terms of protecting the rights of the poor and needy:
- Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute (Psalm 82:3 NLT).
- Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (Isaiah 1:17 NLT).
- They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans (Isaiah 10:2 NLT).
Religious freedom is not about “just us,” it’s about justice! Therefore we promote it and protect it for all.