It's a sad reality that even the most expensive, precious, and invaluable of gifts sometimes receive the least appreciation, especially through the passage of time. The gift of religious freedom that we as Americans are privileged to possess is one that many beyond our shores only dream of having, yet those who are blessed to enjoy it easily forget the magnitude of this gift that we have been given.
During this month of July, when our thoughts turn to all things patriotic as we take part in various celebrations that have a reoccurring red, white, and blue theme, it is still easy to miss the most precious gift that we are given as Americans – the freedom of religion. While the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, right to bear arms, and so forth, are all extremely important, the freedom of religion is by far the most precious of all.
The longing for religious freedom was the driving force that compelled the first settlers to cross unchartered waters in search of a land where they could worship God as their conscience dictated. Yet, today, many Americans do not even give a second thought to the fact that they are able to go to church and live out their faith without retribution from the government. However, we get a taste of what other countries experience as a daily reality when we rally on the steps of our Supreme Court, praying that our business owners will not be forced by the government to violate their deeply held convictions and provide abortion-inducing drugs to their employees.
In China, demolition teams show up in the dark of night to remove any sort of Christian representation that believers have the courage to display. Iranian American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini spent his 10th anniversary of marriage behind bars, unable to see his wife and two children. Sudanese Christian believer Meriam Ibrahim was forced to give birth to her second child in a prison cell. Her crime? Being a Christian.
Because we have been given so many blessings as Americans, it is extremely easy to have an attitude of entitlement. We tend to forget that the only reason we have these freedoms is due solely to God’s blessing and all those who have given their lives so that our fundamental rights could be protected.
This holiday, ignite the fire of freedom in your own heart. Commit to defend it with everything in you. This gift is only as strong your willingness to come to its defense.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”