Freedom to Worship or The Free Exercise of Religion?

The Constitution of the United States guarantees the free exercise of religion. In recent years many politicians have taken to exchanging freedom to worship for freedom of religion. Is this simply semantics or is there a more sinister design behind it? At a 2015 conference, one of our current candidates for high political office made the following statement in defending abortion, “…deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed…” If you had to do a double take at the that statement then I do not blame you. If a person is of this opinion and then obtains great political power do we not think this person would do all possible to discourage religious beliefs that do not support abortion, gay marriage or any other immoral, yet popular, lifestyle? In my opinion the subtle change in wording from religion to worship is an intentional undermining of Christian influence in our culture.

Why the change in the wording? While we understand that one may worship God anywhere, by and large most people commonly understand that worship takes place in a house of worship. The free exercise of religion, however, is quite another matter. My religion is my life, and it is not confined to any building. My deep seated religious belief is lived out in my everyday life. To me, a comment such as this should have caused national outrage, but it barely caused a blip on the radar. Why is that? Perhaps those in power changed the wording from free exercise of religion to freedom to worship because they have seen little evidence of Christianity outside of the houses of worship. Ouch! That hurts.

The true fact is, many Christians confine the free exercise of their religion to their house of worship. We call them Sunday only Christians, and they have been around for a long time. Perhaps there is no greater enemy of true Christianity than lukewarm, worldly, hypocritical pew warmers. Does that sound harsh? Sorry if the truth hurts. In point of fact, they’re really not Christians at all. To wear the name Christian implies (demands?) Christ-like conduct and a hypocritical life is certainly not Christ-like.

It is right to be upset about the current downward spiral toward moral debauchery in our nation. We should do all that we can to stop this downward spiral by electing those to office who will uphold Christian values and who hold a Biblical worldview, but we must also consider ourselves. Have I been living a life that does not rightly reflect the beliefs I espouse in the house of worship?

Many will sing Oh how I love Jesus on Sunday morning, they will partake of the unleavened bread and grape juice which are emblematic of His body and blood that were offered for our salvation, they may even go so far as to say amen during the sermon. Monday through Saturday, however, is another matter altogether. The name of He Who was so venerated in worship on Sunday is now taken in vain and used in conjunction with 4 letter expletives.

Christians are to be a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). We are to be wholly devoted to God not compartmentalized. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:5, KJV) Israel of old had the same attitude about religion that is being promoted today. In short, keep God in the box. Keep your religion in the church building, and don’t bring it out for anyone else to see.

Consider the words spoken by Jeremiah to Israel of old who also thought they ought to confine their worship of God to the House of Worship (Temple). “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, “and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 7:8-11 NKJV) God saw their hypocrisy. If we live in the same manner do we not think He will see ours?

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