We have completed the introduction of this complicated subject of The Duty to Toleration. In my previous article, What the Church Must Accept,We discussed Firstly, and Secondly, what a Church has the duty to tolerate and duty not to tolerate. I would like to wrap up that discussion in this article and begin, in the next article, with the Duty to Toleration in regards to the Civil Authority (worldly government).
Thirdly, a Church Organization has absolutely no legitimate authority over a person’s personal affairs, whether they be members of that denomination or not. As discussed in the previous article, a Church has every right to demand its members maintain a certain character and be even more demanding on the characters or its leaders, but for the most part each person has the right to live their lives as they believe is best. If a church member’s behavior has publicly embarrassed the Church somehow (something which happens very rarely), then yes he or she should be rebuked. If the minister or priest has displayed poor character, then yes the Church has every right to reprimand or even expel the offender. However, in the day-to-day affairs of a person’s personal life: a Church Organization can criticize, but has no place to penalize.
I would like to discuss here the Church Leaders specifically; those who wield the official powers of a Church Organization. Regardless of denomination or title: Bishops, Priests, Presbyters, Ministers, Elders, Deacons, Cardinals, etc, all of them are called to be “Set Apart.” They are entrusted with the authority of the Church and therefore should never extend their Shepard’s hook beyond the Church. As I said, the Church is to be ‘Set Apart’ from the World and is meant to be more than just ‘one of the nations.’ The LORD has placed the Body of Christ in charge over the souls of men, power forbidden to the earthly rulers and the LORD has placed different political Bodies of Men in charge of different parts of His garden. Only God, and God alone, holds both Heaven and Earth in his dominion.
Therefore, No man, regardless of Ecclesiastical title, honor, or fame, can forcibly deprive another man of Life, Liberty, or of any of his Worldly goods. Furthermore, if it is not lawful for the Church as a whole, then it is not lawful for any of its Members. Please do not read this as an attack on Religion, the same is true for the Civil Authority, but we’ll get to that in the next article.
But we’re not done yet folks.
We all agree that it is the duty of Church leaders to be free of violence, greed, and malice, but that is not enough. A true Apostle of Christ has a duty to teach his flock to be people of peace and good-will as well; even towards those the Denomination sees as erroneous, fallen, or heretical. Matthew 5.43-48, Luke 14.13-14, Romans 14.13-15, 1 Peter 3.17-18, I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
A true Apostle has a duty to wield his Authority only within the dominion of the Church, but he has a duty too to praise and temper the actions or characters presented in the World. By this I mean, if a person or governing Official has displayed a godly example of charity, meekness, toleration, by all means please speak up; hold them up to your congregation as an example to be followed as they follow Christ in their daily lives. In turn if a person or governing Official has displayed an unholy example of greed, arrogance, hatred, please rebuke it publicly; make sure your flock is not following this person down the same path.
I will not name any names of preachers, church leaders, denominations or governing officials I have witnessed succeed or fail in this. I do not want to inflate any egos or destroy anyone’s reputation. I instead ask my readers to look and judge for themselves; do not take my word for it, let the leader’s words and actions speak for them. I will say this, any Church leader who professes himself to be a servant of the Prince of Peace but does not profess Peace: he is either incompetent or neglectful of his calling, and will one day be held to account for his actions or inaction in front of the Prince himself. Ezekiel 33.1-6, Matthew 16.23
Christians are taught to hold no malice or hope of revenge on anyone who has wronged them, even after multiple injuries. How much better is it then, to hold no ill will against people who have never truly injured us or even threatened us; people who simply hold to different beliefs. A person has every right to live as they believe the Creator wants them to live. Unless they’re trying to tell you how to live your life or trying to grab your money/belongings for themselves there is no reason to go causing mischief by stirring up the hornets nest.
No one complains because the neighbor is bad at finances, bought an ugly car, or allowed their daughter to marry the wrong sort of boy. (if you are, you shouldn’t be.) That’s their business; that’s his or her property, his or her family. Our neighbors have every liberty to live as they please. Very few are upset by this, except for the incredibly nosey, but Heaven forbid the neighbors are members of the wrong religious Denomination, or members of the wrong political party.
By the same right our neighbors have, to use their gifts and belongings in whatever way that they believe the Great Provider wants them to, the neighbors have the right to:
- worship or not worship their Maker as they believe best;
- serve or not serve their political leaders as they believe best; and
- raise their children to do the same.
Use every honorable and peaceable means of persuasion you can get your hands on, but let us not call on the coercive power of State Officials to force or shame our neighbors to:
- worship God the way we believe He wishes;
- use their wealth the way we believe they should;
- raise their children with the values we believe they should uphold; or
- punish them for not doing so.
This can all be summed up in the phrase: “Beware the Prophet seeking Profit.”
That feels like a good transition into our next articles topic: the Duty to Toleration for the State. In this article I have argued that a Church Organization can criticize a person’s actions, but has no power to penalize a person in this World. We have covered a true Apostle’s duty to respect the LORD’s children even if it is a rebellious and ungrateful child. Lastly, I warned against the use of State power to enforce Church Doctrine. In my next article we will look at the other side of the coin, the misuse of State power to dominate the Church.