Why Hobby Lobby MattersMonday, June 30, 2014
This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets for joy. The Supreme Court just handed down the Hobby Lobby case, and ruled that the government cannot force closely-held corporations to violate their religious beliefs in the purchasing of abortion-causing drugs.
The ruling isn’t just a win for evangelicals, like the Southern Baptist Greens. It’s a win for everyone. Here’s why. A government that can pave over the consciences of the Greens can steamroll over any dissent anywhere. Whether you agree or disagree with us about abortion, every American should want to see a government that is not powerful enough to set itself up as a god over the conscience.
As Christians, we believe in obeying the law and honoring our government authorities (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17). But Jesus taught us to render unto Caesar what belongs to him, and to God what belongs to him. Our consciences are not held in a blind trust when we leave our church buildings on Sunday.
I hope this decision is a warning to the White House to stop such a cavalier disregard of religious liberty, seen both in this coercive mandate and, earlier, in their argument to do away with the ministerial exemption in hiring.
More than that, though, I pray for churches that can raise up a new generation to prize freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all. We won this case, and now is the time to thank God. But who could have imagined just a few years ago that we would even have to take such a thing to the United States Supreme Court? We must teach our children what it means to be free people, and what it means to follow Christ whatever the cost.
This is not just a political issue. The Apostle Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship when he was charged with disrupting the peace. All the way through the appeals process, he not only plead for his freedom, but he also preached the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 25-26). We should do so as well. But that means teaching the next generation that following Christ will be costly, and that they will be often viewed as strange and even subversive by a culture in which sexual liberation is the highest god in the pantheon. A discount-rate prosperity gospel will not supply such grit. The gospel of Jesus Christ will.
So let’s celebrate today. And then let’s remember that we prize religious liberty not preeminently because it keeps us out of jail. We prize religious liberty because we believe there is a court higher than the Supreme Court. No government bureaucrat will stand with us before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and thus no bureaucrat should seek to lord over the conscience.
Let’s remember the words of the Apostle Peter: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a coverup for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16). Let’s fight for religious freedom, for everybody. And let’s preach the gospel with power. We must be about both:persuasive proclamation and the guarding of the freedom to disagree with us. That’s what Jesus taught us. So let’s hold onto freedom and let’s pray, for liberty and Jesus for all.