Scripture seldom commands us to do anything directly in relation to the State.
A rare exception is found in 1 Timothy 2, where Paul urges us to pray for those in authority – “for kings and all who are in high positions…”
But it’s not just prayer in general. It is prayer for a specific thing – “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
This is prayer that the governing authorities might grant us to live in peace, even as we live godly lives.
Paul is saying we should pray for religious freedom.
In our own nation religious freedom is on the ropes. As Christians, we are less free to live godly lives than we were a year ago.
Many small changes have come along over the years, but the same-sex marriage law was a decisive moment.
The law on marriage used to tell us not only what marriage is, but that gender is ordered a particular way, sexuality is directed towards a particular end, and family is structured around both gender and biology. It was a heteronormative foundation for society. It taught us a great deal about human relationships.
The law on marriage now tells us something quite different about all of these things. Gender does not matter, sexuality is fluid and open-ended, family is whatever we say it is.
But it’s worse than that.
The great English common lawyer Sir William Blackstone wrote that, in an English legal system such as ours, laws are “rules of right conduct.”
Note that – they are rules. Not mere suggestions. Not symbolic. Not flexible. They are rules… And they are rules concerning what is right and what is wrong.
It is accurate, therefore, for me to say that the law on marriage now tells us that gender must not matter. Sexuality must be fluid and open ended. Family must be a flexible idea.
As Christians, we have a collection of convictions about marriage, creation and the human person which are contrary to the new rules.
We have a collection of beliefs that are, strictly speaking, against the law.
Can such beliefs be declared as true and the alternatives false in our preaching?
Can we declare the same thing in our conversations with others?
Can we create institutions and businesses that not only codify these beliefs, but conduct all of their activities in accordance with them? What about Schools? Campsites? Charities?
Can we be fit and proper people to live in society without suffering disapproval or even persecution? To hold qualifications? To teach in schools? To work in corporations and governments?
ACL’s work in the field of religious freedom indicates that the answer is increasingly uncertain.
A Tasmanian pastor is currently fighting a Supreme Court case to preserve his freedom to write blogs on marriage and distribute Christian literature in the street.
A Western Australian couple are fighting for the right to become foster parents after the agency told them it would be “unsafe” to place young children in their care because of their Christian convictions on human sexuality and gender.
A CEO was summarily dismissed for expressing his opinion on the Safe Schools program at work when challenged by a colleague.
Teachers, university academics, students, public servants and professionals across the nation are being placed under suspension, discipline and are even being sacked for their beliefs.
Faith-based schools are being sued by transgender activists because their policies reflect the belief that God made us male and female.
All these and more are cases receiving aid from the ACL.
Without very robust religious freedom protections, Christians are now sitting ducks. Our beliefs are against the law and it will become increasingly obvious with time.
Now is the time to do something about it. The window of opportunity is fading fast.
It is worth noting that Paul and Timothy could do little more than pray. They did not live in a democracy where political action was possible. They couldn’t vote, campaign, speak to their MP, or run for parliament.
But Paul set us an example for action by making the most of the scant opportunities to speak truth to power when they came his way.
The Lord told Ananias concerning Paul that he would speak to kings.
By Acts 23, Paul is speaking to Governor Felix and in Acts 26 he is telling his testimony to King Agrippa. No opportunity was wasted.
God has given us a great gift: the freedom that comes with life under democratic rule.
We live in an age where we can all make representations to our rulers, either directly or through lobbying platforms that unite and amplify our voices like ACL.
If Paul had contemplated the possibility in his time, I am certain he would have told us to both pray and act.
That is why I am asking you to do three things:
- Pray for your religious freedom;
- Be ready to engage with our religious freedom campaign once the Ruddock Review is publicly released;
- Donate to our end of financial year appeal.
Let’s not squander our gift of freedom whilst we still have it.