It’s Independence Day weekend, 2014, as this is being written. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in America. The Supreme Court handed down three decisions that have caused quite a stir. One of them, related to the free exercise of religion, probably has caused the most public outcry.
The case, if you’re not aware off it, relates to the relatively new federal government mandate that businesses of a certain size must provide contraception under their health insurance offerings, without a copay.
A few privately-held businesses run by Christians–most notably craft store chain Hobby Lobby–pushed back. Out of 20 contraceptives mandated by the federal government, four of them can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, consider that abortion and didn’t want to provide those particular contraceptives as a matter of religious conviction and conscience.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, sided with Hobby Lobby.
Many of those who disagreed with the ruling went from complaining about the ruling and the Court to attacking the Green family personally. I suspect that is an emotional reaction to feeling helpless, like their world is out of their control. Trolling around on social media, I even saw one person say that the ruling had ruined his holiday weekend.
Interestingly, the very same “Roberts Court” made a related decision only two years ago, also in a 5-4 split. In that case in 2012, the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as “Obamacare”, was upheld. The folks upset now were dancing in the streets then.
If you follow politics, then you know this is par for the course. Every two years, or four years, or eight years, fortunes change for both sides. The political tide ebbs, and it flows, and sometimes floods.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been making my way through one of the Great Courses–recordings of college courses by excellent professors. This one is about the history of freedom. The course starts in 490 BC, at the Battle of Marathon. From there, the lecturer takes the listener to the society of ancient Greece–which seemed to have many of our same problems and applied some of our same solutions (or perhaps more accurately, we apply some of their solutions).
My take-away? Nearly 2500 years later, we still can’t get it right. The world is still a mess. American culture is still rife with strife.
For the Christian, we realize we are citizens of two kingdoms–an earthly one and an eternal one. The earthly one will not last. That fact matters, because it can lead us to a healthier perspective.
It reminds us to ensure we’re not investing in this earthly one too much–though we are called, for sure, to invest in it some. For example, we care for the poor and fight for justice not because it’s our innate political drive, but because God says to (e.g., Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 19:17, 22:22; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10). We are not called to keep our faith out of the public forum–we are called to apply our faith in public and not hide that we do it (Matthew 5:16).
But we also remember that Jesus says wars will continue, nations will continue to fight one another, and natural disasters will come (Matthew 24:6-14).
What then is our hope? It is our faith, though not in a religious movement, but in the One who saves us, who sustains us. Jesus is the way to salvation (John 14:6). He gives us his Word to guide us in this age and into the one to come. He sends us the Holy Spirit to teach us and to empower us to live in this age.
And, we are reminded that this age will terminate. One day, there will be a good government. But it won’t be a human one. It will be led by Jesus (Matthew 25:31-32; Revelation 11:15-18).
Jesus reminds us to look to him: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Christ is a fixed point in a world that never stops changing. As the old hymn goes,
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
That is true independence.