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Christians enter public life for many reasons. Some view it as an opportunity to serve their community by pursuing the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves. Others see public life as a means toward fulfilling our Biblical mandate to fight injustice by defending the oppressed. Each of these motivations is reinforced by a conviction that our faith is more than just a private set of beliefs. As followers of Christ, we are called to serve as his ambassadors in a fallen – and often hostile – world.

We should commend our fellow Christians who aspire to serve in public life. Giving back to our communities, seeking justice and standing up for the rights of the vulnerable are all laudable ambitions. Yet we must also recognize that our freedom to pursue these callings is only a means to the end of advancing the cause of the Gospel.

In and of itself, religious freedom does nothing to call us to repent of our sins and follow after Christ in obedience. Indeed, once our involvement in public life has become an end unto itself we may even find that we’ve unwittingly fallen prey to the sin of idolatry. When our chief aim becomes anything other than glorying Christ in all that we do, we’ve allowed something else to take his place as Lord of our lives.

Christians engaged in the cause of promoting religious freedom (I count myself as a member of this group) are especially susceptible to this pitfall. In a culture that increasingly limits the right of religious minorities to publicly live out their faith, it’s easy to become so absorbed in the struggle for religious freedom that we forget the reason why we seek to preserve such liberties in the first place.

Yet on a deeper level, we must also understand that nowhere in scripture is religious freedom (at least in a social or legal sense) described as a precondition for obedience; the life to which Christ calls his followers is neither one of social comfort nor cultural acceptance.

When a scribe came to Jesus to declare that he would follow him wherever he went, Jesus bluntly responded that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” [1] Jesus later told his disciples that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” [2]

Jesus’ sobering call to take up our cross and lose our lives for his sake reminds us that religious freedom is neither necessary nor sufficient for maintaining a faithful Gospel witness. Yes, religious freedom makes it easier for us as Christians to bring the message of the Gospel to those around us. But if we’re not going to take full advantage of the privileges that come with religious freedom, then we shouldn’t be surprised when others seize this opportunity to limit the extent to which we can live out our faith.

Christians should educate themselves about the challenges currently being mounted against religious freedom in Canada and around the world. Those of us who have a passion for public affairs should look for ways to engage our culture for the sake of the Gospel. In doing so, however, we must remain attuned to the pendulum of our motivations. If our primary desire is for cultural revolution – rather than seeing hearts and minds transformed by and for Christ – then our witness is a false one. Only when we are fully “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” can we truly say our fight for religious freedom is for the glory of God alone. [3]


[1] Matthew 8:18-20

[2] Matthew 16:24-25

[3] Hebrews 12:2


Originally posted at kristopherkinsinger.com and used here with permission.