BELIZE JOURNAL PT. 2 on Christian church. As the Christian church we hold that the Bible is our highest written authority. It is the law of God and the law of love (1 John 3:23). It is above every other law. In a similar way that courts seek to understand and apply a nation’s laws, we seek to understand and apply the Bible. One difference is that human laws can be changed. But the Bible cannot be changed. Therefore, when the Bible is clear on an issue, we must take that biblical stance. And we must always hold to that biblical stance.
At the same time, the Bible tells us that we must submit to the governing authorities. (Rom. 13:1-5). The fundamental governing authority in Belize is the Constitution. Then there are the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities who operate according to the Constitution. In Belize there is a formal compatibility between the church and the governing authorities. The first statement in the Constitution affirms that “the Nation of Belize shall be founded upon principles which acknowledge the supremacy of God.” If we really acknowledged the supremacy of God in our own lives, we could build a great Belize on this foundation.
Whenever the supremacy of God is an issue, the Christian church is in the best position to interpret it. The Christian church is the stated religion of the vast majority of Belizeans, both now and when the Constitution was written. Unfortunately, only 10% of Belizeans attend church with any regularity. Even in the churches, there is a struggle to get past mere membership to real discipleship. The more discipleship, the freer we are from our old selves. And the more we can witness to an amoral secular world the moral and spiritual values of God’s word.
FREEDOM TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN. In its Preamble, the Constitution of Belize also recognizes “that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and upon the rule of law.” Lawyers and judges are the best interpreters of “the rule of law”. But the Christian church is in the best position to interpret “moral and spiritual values”, which are found in the Bible. Therefore where moral and spiritual values are at issue in the nation, the Christian church should be ready to advise the government on them.
We hope that the government will take our advice on these issues. However, even when the government does not, the Christian church must maintain its biblical stands. Yet we must submit to the government when it enforces any legal consequences on our stands. For instance, if in the future the government would ever order us to perform same-sex marriages, we would refuse. We would take our stand on the Bible. We would cite the supremacy of God in Belize, and our religious freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. We would affirm the moral & spiritual values which are the foundation of our constitutional freedoms. We might take legal recourse if it was necessary to protect our religious freedoms. We expect that the vast majority of Belizeans will continue to agree with the Christian church on this issue.
But what if the government’s order to perform same-sex marriage stood? We would submit to the consequences of noncompliance enforced by the government. At the same time we would submit to God by performing one-man one-woman marriages only.
The government alone has the right to use force to compel submission. No religious body should ever advocate that its members use force to compel submission to its faith. Religion is based on faith. Faith by definition is voluntary. It cannot be forced. Any organization which seeks to compel submission by force is not a faith or a religion. It is a militant association. It is at odds with legal government force. Constitutional freedom of association does not extend to any organization which seeks to take away others’ freedoms by militant force. Such an organization would be illegal and unconstitutional.
Since the government must at times use force, the Christian church should not support any political party or political candidate for government positions. Churches can stand for biblical truths on issues. But they should not support political parties or candidates. Parties and candidates may change, but biblical truths remain the same. Individual Christians have the right to support parties and candidates and to run for office. But they do so as citizens and not as representatives of the church. When Christians are elected, the must represent their entire locality or district or nation, and not just the church. The Christian church must stay impartial and nonpartisan. For that reason, the church should seek an advisory role on moral and spiritual matters with all political parties, while it submits to the elected ruling party.
The church’s influence on the nation and the government depends on its faithfulness to biblical beliefs and practice. It depends on moral persuasion, and on prayer. The better the church fulfills these roles, the better its influence. Let us commit ourselves to serve our nation in this way. Let us seek to work with the government for the best interests of Belize. And let us be accountable to the government and the nation to be what God’s Word says the church should be. In this new year pray that God will make us into the kind of disciples who make disciples of this nation!
DailyInsight: To force faith is a contradiction. “Faith” that uses force is armed coercion, not religion (See Eph. 2:8)
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