According to Belgian tradition, Santa Claus lives in Spain but visits their country each year on the morning of December 6, walking on their rooftops to drop gifts into their chimneys. Coronavirus restrictions were posing a problem for this year’s visit, however. So, government officials made some exceptions: Santa will not be required to quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival, and he can work during evening curfew hours.
Nonetheless, officials encouraged St. Nick to “always respect distancing, wash hands regularly, and wear a face mask” over his long white beard. And they are hoping that in this difficult year, he will be lenient in gift giving. “Every kid here is a hero,” they assured him, “so, for once, you don’t have to check it in your big book.”
“For many, religious liberty is an excuse for bigotry”
Unlike the Belgian approach to Christmas, worldwide government opposition to religious liberty seems to be escalating. Pew Research Center reports the highest level of global government restrictions on religion in a decade. Since 2007, when Pew began its survey, the median level of government restrictions has risen 65 percent and the level for social hostilities has doubled.
This issue came home for American Christians recently when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito stated during a keynote address to the Federalist Society: “It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”
Citing the Little Sisters of the Poor (who refused to allow their health insurance plan to provide contraceptives), Ralph’s Pharmacy (whose owners refused to provide abortifacient drugs), and Masterpiece Cakeshop (whose owner refused to create a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding), he observed: “For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry, and it can’t be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed.”
Justice Alito added: “Even before the pandemic, there was growing hostility to the expression of unfashionable views. And that, too, was a surprising development. Here’s a marker: in 1972, the comedian George Carlin began to perform a routine called ‘The Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV.’ Today, you can see shows on your TV screen in which the dialog appears at times to consist almost entirely of those words.
“Carlin’s list seems like a quaint relic, but it would be easy to put together a new list called ‘Things You Can’t Say if You’re a Student or Professor at a College or University or an Employee of Many Big Corporations.’ And there wouldn’t be just seven items on that list—seventy times seven would be closer to the mark.
“I won’t go down the list, but I’ll mention one that I’ve discussed in a published opinion: You can’t say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.”
You “have” eternal life
We will say more about Justice Alito’s statement tomorrow, but for today let’s note this fact: what matters most to Christians cannot be taken from us.
Enemies of the gospel could imprison the first Christians, but they could not stop their movement. They could take their lives, but they could not threaten their eternal lives. That’s because, contrary to what many people think, eternal life does not begin when we die.
Jesus said of himself, “Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, my emphasis). Note the present tense. The moment we ask our Savior to forgive our sins and become our Lord, his Spirit comes to dwell in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). As a result, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, my emphases). (For more, see my latest video, “What does the Bible say about eternal life?“)
How should we respond to this fact?
One: Claim the fact of your eternal life
When Jesus assured Martha, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” he then asked her, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26). Max Lucado comments: “Let the story of the resurrected Lazarus remind you: Jesus’ authority extends over even the cemetery.
“‘Do you believe this?’ The question is personal. What’s more, it’s precise. Do you believe this? This claim Christ makes about his deity and about your destiny? Jesus is Lord over the cemetery. His voice can empty a grave, and you are designed for a Lazarus moment. Do you believe this?”
Two: Seek your Father’s voice every day
Until we are with our Father in heaven, we can hear his voice on earth: “Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
Craig Denison comments: “There hasn’t been a single thing more impactful in my life than hearing the voice of God. His voice is so tender when I need tenderness, corrective when sin constricts my life, and powerful when only he can make the changes in my life that need to be made.”
Are you listening for your Father’s voice today?
Three: Join God in sharing life with the world
If we already have eternal life, why does God leave us on this fallen planet? Jesus’ commission is our answer: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Global Media Outreach is one of my favorite ministries. They have reached two billion people with the gospel since 2004 and have now created a campaign unlike any I have seen.
The Something Better platform combines the gospel message with photos depicting a first-century Jesus interacting with twenty-first-century people. GMO expects the campaign to connect with 150 million Americans and lead to thirty million decisions for Christ.
Taking the first-century Jesus into the twenty-first century is not just a superlative media initiative—it is also your call and mine.
Do you agree?