“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
I recently went with friends to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Security, of course, was tight, so as we entered we went through numerous check points, with searches and X-rays of our briefcases and bags. After completing our business, we came back through the same points, without having to be screened. As I left the last gate I noticed to the side a security guard, in full uniform, kneeling on his prayer mat, performing one of the five prayers required of each Muslim every day.
Here we are in an Islamic country, where the greatest perceived threat to U.S. interests must be from radical Islamic terrorists, and one of the guards on which the embassy depends is a practicing Muslim. My first reaction was, “Duh, what’s wrong with this picture?” But further reflection brought a different conclusion. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, among many other freedoms. This scene in Dhaka illustrates that it means what it says. We are committed to the principle that one may believe and worship according to his own convictions, and we will not interfere with that. Period. Some would view such conviction as foolish and a sign of weakness. No doubt it provides an area of vulnerability, but it is far from weakness. Rather it is the great strength of the American system and people. The principles stated in our laws reflect our genuine convictions, and we have made every effort to be true to them.
Few, if any, freedoms have been more difficult to attain, or more significant, than the freedom of religion. Many of those who first came to North America were fleeing faith-based persecution. Such persecution has historically been prevalent throughout the world, and even in our modern times it is by no means rare. The ability to worship without fear of opposition is a tremendous blessing and privilege.
Some today, however, seem more interested in interpreting the constitution as providing freedom from religion. The doctrine of separation of church and state is used to restrict religious expression. Though there are legitimate issues of individual freedom involved, some such restrictions seem to reflect a bias against religion, even a fear of it. Religion is blamed as a cause of war, a root of hatred, and a source of suffering and evil. Labeled as “the opiate of the masses” it is also considered by some as irrelevant and inconsequential. In their view, the world would be better off without it.
Far better, however, than freedom from religion and better still than freedom of religion, we are able today to celebrate freedom IN religion. “Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Rivals may persecute, and faith may constrain, but the only genuine freedom one may know is neither “of” nor “from” religion, but rather “in” it. Without Christ, one is enslaved in ignorance and sin (Ephesians 2:1-3,12). He is under sentence of death, “having no hope and without God in this world.” But he is truly liberated by obedient faith in Jesus Christ. Only Christianity can truly offer this liberty (Acts 4:12). Though we respect and will work to provide the right to believe and practice other faiths, we proclaim the Gospel of Peace as the only path to genuine liberty. Let us confess Christ as Lord and claim this freedom.

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