God and Caesar

  Puritans and Quakers left England to escape laws insisting they believe and worship in the ways the state demanded. In North America, they were free to believe and worship as they desired. We've defended that right over the years as a precious American birthright. Most of us realize,however, that this kind of liberty is not enjoyed by most of the world. In 1998, congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act that established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The commission's mission is to expose religious liberty violations around the world and recommend action. Every May, the commission reports to the president on countries that stifle religious freedom, and suggests specific foreign policy changes. While the president doesn't have to follow the recommendations, he is, nonetheless, bound by law to take action against nations that won't grant their people religious freedom. Since so much of the religious persecution in the world is directed against Christians, the commission's report is a powerful tool for protecting the lives of thousands of believers. While the commission report doesn't use these specific classifications, governments that deny religious freedom fall into two broad categories. Both violate the principle given to us by Jesus: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." The first category is the nations that believe that Caesar is God -- that is, believe the state is supreme over all and deserves loyalty. This includes China and Russia, but the worst offender is North Korea. The North Korean government hands out opportunities and privileges based on perceived loyalty to the regime. Religious believers --particularly Christians -- are automatically assigned to the lowest places because they have a loyalty that goes beyond the state. Life for Christians in North Korea is brutal because they will not worship the state. The second category is governments that believe that God is Caesar -- that is, that the government is God's representative on earth. These are, for the most part, radical Islamic states. Countries like Sudan,Iran, and Saudi Arabia see their primary purpose as enforcing religious law. In the section on Sudan, the commission this year came out in favor of capital market sanctions -- the key provision of the Sudan Peace Act passed by the House that is conspicuously missing from the version passed by the Senate. The commission's work is vitally important. Every American cares deeply about religious liberty, and people around the world need to hear our voices raised. But -- and this may not surprise many of you -- this year's report was virtually ignored by the media. There was one article in THE WASHINGTON TIMES, and an editorial in the KANSAS CITY STAR, and that's it. Where are all the defenders of the First Amendment and human rights? So most of you never even heard about that report or its recommendations. That's tragic. Let me suggest you go to the commission's web site: There you can find the annual report, as well as reports on specific offending countries.As Christians, our citizenship goes beyond our national borders.Scripture tells us that we are to remember the brethren who are being mistreated, as if we're suffering with them. Therefore, we're all part of the persecuted church, brothers and sisters with those who are oppressed because of their faith in Christ. If the press won't carry important news, we need to get it and distribute it ourselves.


Chuck Colson


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