The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Maine cannot prohibit parents from using a state tuition program to send their children to religious private schools. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, finding that “a State violates the Free Exercise Clause when it excludes religious observers from otherwise available public benefits.”
First Liberty, the largest legal organization in the US dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty, brought the case with the Institute for Justice. In response to the ruling, First Liberty President, CEO, and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford wrote, “We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country. Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government. This is a great day for religious liberty in America.”
Kelly is a constitutional scholar and longtime friend. I am grateful for his service to the kingdom and for this achievement in defense of religious liberty.
There is other good news in the news as well. A new study predicts that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a quarter of abortion facilities throughout the US will close. Every baby saved is a life precious to God. In related news, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution, a position many pro-life supporters hold with regard to the US Constitution as well.
And the world swimming governing body has chosen to prohibit some men who identify as female from participating in women’s competitions. While the ruling unfortunately allows male swimmers who underwent a so-called gender transition before the age of twelve to compete against female athletes, it recognizes that people who transition after the start of puberty have an athletic advantage.
Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner agreed with the decision: “If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females.”
Three ways to restore broken relationships
This week we have been exploring the claim that, no matter how broken our world or fallen our culture, it is always too soon to give up on God.
When our culture decides for biblical truth, as today’s stories illustrate, we are encouraged to continue standing for God’s word. However, when our culture rejects biblical truth, it is even more imperative that we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
The sicker the patient, the more urgent the physician. In this case, the Great Physician.
As we respond to cultural challenges, however, it is imperative that we do so in ways that honor Jesus and draw people to him. To this end, I found a recent article by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be very practical. In it, he identifies three steps we can take to “restore broken relationships, build connections across difference, and bridge divides.”
One: Be curious.
Welby: “When we encounter difference, or people we don’t understand, do we truly hear their story and see the value they might bring? Do we come to discussions with humility to learn from those who aren’t like us? Are we open to learning from people with whom we disagree?”
Two: Be present.
Welby: “Can we fully encounter other people with authenticity? Can we bring our beliefs as well as our vulnerabilities to conversations?”
Welby: “Peace requires a shift in our moral imagination, a transformation of our understanding of what could be possible. That’s how we break out of repeating cycles of violence . . . we have to be able to imagine a different world before it can become reality. Much of this reimagining happens collectively; it’s with others that we can often envision and create something new.”
“The ocean is in the bucket”
To fulfill the archbishop’s strategy, I suggest a fourth step: seek to manifest the character of Christ in the power of his Spirit.
When Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, he knew her story fully (John 4:17–18). He was completely present and authentic with her (v. 26). And he imagined a new future for her, one in which she would experience “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (v. 14). Now the Spirit who empowered Jesus (Luke 4:18; John 1:33; Acts 10:38) is ready to continue his earthly ministry through us as the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
A W. Tozer explained our relationship with the omnipresent and immanent God by describing a submerged bucket of ocean water: “It is full of the ocean. The ocean is in the bucket, but the bucket also is in the ocean surrounding it.”
If Christ is your Lord, his Spirit dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16) and you dwell in him (Psalm 139:7). But you must choose whether to allow the indwelling Spirit to make you more like Jesus than you have ever been and use you to engage your culture with his grace.
To this end, let’s make John Baillie’s prayer our own: “Do not let me rest content with an ideal of humanity that is less than what was shown to us in Jesus. Give me the mind of Christ. May I not rest until I am like him in all his fullness. . . . May I be obedient even to death. As I lean on his cross may I not refuse my own; but rather may I bear it by the strength of his.”
What cross will you bear in the strength of the cross today?
NOTE: For more on experiencing Jesus with transforming intimacy, please see my latest blog, “Paying twenty times more for sunglasses.”