It is not uncommon for one who has a valued possession to take it for granted. This can certainly be so with regard to physical prosperity, but can equally be true of spiritual opportunity. We are blessed to live in a country wherein religious freedom is, for the most part, defended. My question to you is this: do you take advantage of the spiritual freedom afforded you in our country?
Owning And Reading A Bible
We have the freedom to own and read a Bible. How sad to think that there are perhaps thousands upon thousands of Bibles in Canadian households that serve as nothing more than bookshelf dust traps.
Are you aware the Catholic Church once prohibited the Bible from the people? Canon 14 of the Council of Toulouse (1229 AD) states,
We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old and New Testament...1
There are still countries today where it is illegal for residents to possess or peruse a Bible. The U.S. Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report, 2007 states of North Korea:
Ownership of Bibles or other religious materials is reportedly illegal and may be punished by imprisonment or execution.2
In both Burma3 and Morocco4, it is illegal to translate the Bible into the indigenous languages. Armed forces personnel in Eritrea5 face severe punishment for possessing a Bible.
Do you appreciate the freedom you have to own a Bible? Do you take advantage of that freedom? Some, if they want to read the word of life, are in danger of losing their life! Shame on us, if we take for granted the simple blessing of being able to own and read a Bible without fear of imprisonment, torture or death. Shame on us, if we do not read God's word daily, and put it in practice in our lives!!
Meeting With Fellow Believers
Weekly attendance stats for churches in Canada vary, reported as low as 11% by Ipsos-Reid, and as high as 25% by Christianity Today.6 Either way, the number of Canadians attending worship services each week is low.
Canadians are free to assemble with the religious affiliation of their choosing, be it Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, some fringe cultic group, or true Christianity. There is no fear of punishment for coming together with those of similar faith. What a wonderful, yet so seldom used privilege we have.
“Do you take advantage of the spiritual freedom afforded you...?”
Algerian law prohibits any public assembly which would conflict with the government's interpretation of Shari'a law. Ordinance 06-03 authorizes the government to "close informal Christian services in private homes and isolated areas.7
In China, SARA (the State Administration for Religious Affairs) has stated that "prayer meetings and Bible study groups held among friends and family in homes are legal..." However, SARA has not publicly defined "family and friends", and has often disrupted such assemblies and arrested participants.8
Iran's president has called for the end of the development of Christianity, and as such, has either closed or placed extreme restrictions on non-Islamic religions. Many churches have gone underground, but are being actively sought out and punished.9
There are many people in countries where it is illegal to assemble to worship God who do so anyhow, because it is right to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19; 5:29). This, they do, though being caught may result in torture or death.
How sad that our nation is so irreverent, that though we may freely assemble for worship, an extreme majority of our nation will not. Even more pitiful, there are some who have become members o the Lord's church who readily excuse themselves from the assembly of God's people for any number of reasons. Shame!!!
Let us take advantage of our religious freedoms! So many in the world are not so blessed, and yet in some of them, we see greater faith and determination to serve the Lord than in ourselves. May our zeal rise to their's; may their freedoms expand to our's!
1) Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe; Edward Peters, p. 194-195.
2) International Religious Freedom Report, 2007; U.S. Department of State.
3) persecution.org; Burma
4) persecution.org; Morocco
5) persecution.org; Eritrea
6) wikipedia.org; Religion In Canada
7) persecution.org; Algeria
8) International Religious Freedom Report, 2007; U.S. Department of State
9) persecution.org; Iran
Answering The Atheist
The Atheist's Complaint:
How should parents be treated? Should we honor our parents (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:2; Proverbs 1:8; 23:22; Malachi 4:6), or disrespect and hate them (Matthew 12:47-48; 23:9; Mark 3:32-33; Luke 9:59-60; 14:26). Is there a contradiction?
Note that three of the six affirmative texts listed specifically say "honor your parents". The others command children to hear their parents, and to turn their hearts toward them. From these texts, it is obvious that we should honor our parents.
Also notice, of the negative texts supplied, none of them tells us to disrespect our parents. That is the questioner's affirmation, not the Lord's. Let us consider each of the texts.
Does Matthew 14:26 teach that we must hate our parents? In Strong's definition for the Greek miseo, we find "...to love less..." That is the intent of the word as used in this text. We must love our parents (in fact, all of our family, and even our own life) less than we love the Lord.
In Luke 9:59-60, a man asked Jesus to excuse him, that he might go bury his father. The respect commanded towards one's parents is given in the days while mom and dad are alive, not deceased. We may consider participation in the burial of a loved one to be a sign of respect and honor, but as was demonstrated in the affirmative texts, true honor is found in how we respond to our parents during their lives.
In a scathing rebuke of the Pharisees, Jesus said, "Call no man your father..." (Matthew 23:9) This is a command against religious titles, not against honoring biological fathers.
In Matthew 12:47-48, as well as Mark 3:32-33, Jesus identifies His true family as those who hear His teachings. His biological family were outside, calling for Him, because they did not believe Him (John 7:5), and thought that He was "out of His mind" (Mark 3:21). He did not hate or disrespect his mother here, but perhaps aided her in eventually coming to faith (Acts 1:14).
There is no contradiction.
This article is in response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible.