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Recently a group of clergy in North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the Governor of North Carolina and his Stay At Home Order for the good of public health. The ministers, along with several other groups connected by stated religious principles, said the reason for their lawsuit was to protect their religious freedoms and that the governor’s order violated freedom of religious as a protected constitutional right.
Religion as an expression of Christian witness is never about individual rights but a call to community responsibility where we demonstrate our concern about God’s creation. Christian religion is a justice issue that calls upon believers to make sacrifices, to submit to authority, and even at times to suffer in order to do good. It is always an indication of the enemy at work whenever we are urged to places our rights over responsibility. The brother of Jesus makes this point in his brief epistle. James 1:27 tells us pure and undefiled religion before God is this--to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Christian faith calls us to act. Act not for ourselves but to act for others and especially those who have no one to act on their behalf. The current pandemic has revealed just how divided our nation is but also just how so many in our nation suffer because of a lack of resources whether those resources are access to quality health care or internet services for children who are compelled to be educated through virtual learning. The summer slide that educators often speak about may be replaced by a technology gap that locks many students out of learning opportunities.
James would have us to place our efforts not in lawsuits about religious rights but in advocacy and service that ensures that the least are not always left out. Because they too are God’s children deserving all that God’s world can provide for them when the church does not see mission as something we do somewhere else in the world and never in our back yard. Let’s decide to be God’s agency for the change that is on God’s heart--the widows and the orphans and all of those who are marginalized. For this is pure religion.
Published on Saturday, May 23, 2020 @ 8:28 AM EDT