Of all the freedoms we have, religious liberty is the one we cherish the most.
Richard E. Lauersdorf
She was crying. As she stood there in the row of communicants, Grandma Rebase was crying.
A freedom to cherish
The Russians, when their tanks had rumbled into Estonia, closed most of the churches. Even if Grandma Rebase had been able to attend one, her life would have been in danger. She was a high school teacher and as such was not allowed to pollute minds with religion.
When she reached the age of 65 in 1965, the authorities allowed her to emigrate to Canada to join her daughter. She also joined our little mission congregation in Sault Ste. Marie. There at Our Saviour’s she was privileged to receive the Lord’s body and blood again after so many years. She didn’t miss a Communion service after that unless she was ill. To say that her newfound Christian freedom was precious to her would be an understatement.
A most important freedom
We can travel from sea to shining sea without once stopping at a checkpoint or showing a passport. We can work at whatever occupation we desire and use our paycheck, at least some of it, for our own desires. We can live in whatever part of the country we like—whether hot, cold, or in–between—and move if we change our minds. We can speak our minds freely, even at times in criticism of our government, though always respectfully. And we can believe and worship whom, what, where, and how we desire.
Of all those blessed freedoms, isn’t that last one—that freedom of religion—the one we cherish the most?
The founders of the United States and of Canada wisely recognized how important the freedom of religion is. In the U.S., when they added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, their very First Amendment stated, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This important amendment forbids the government from establishing, preferring, prohibiting, or funding religion of any kind. It also protects citizens and institutions from governmental interference with the exercise of their religious beliefs.
How to cherish this freedom
The experts who do the counting tell us that Christians are oppressed in at least 60 countries. Nor is the demon from hell leaving our nations alone. The black clouds of atheism, skepticism, and intolerance are hovering over our land and trying their best to flood away our freedom.
What’s the answer? Isn’t it to cherish the religious liberty we have?
“LORD, I love the house where you live,” declared the psalmist (26:8). Is that also our reaction? Do we look forward to slipping into our familiar church bench on the weekend to have our soul refreshed and our strength renewed?
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly,” Paul urged (Colossians 3:16). We don’t have to sneak away to some remote corner of our basement or hide our Bibles and devotional books.
“Bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord,” Paul commanded (Ephesians 6:4). Gladly, sacrificially, freely we seek to use any means we can to bring and keep our children in the Savior’s arms.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” the Savior commissioned us (Mark 16:15). Lifting high the cross, we reach for sinners among us, around us, and far away from us.
No one had to tell Grandma Rebase to cherish and use the religious liberty she had in her new home. How about us? Do we need to be reminded?
Richard Lauersdorf is pastor at Good Shepherd, West Bend, Wisconsin.
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Author: Richard E. Lauersdorf
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 2019
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