Rights and Wrongs
by Jan Ross 5/18/2009 / Politics
"Now then we are
ambassadors for Christ"
(2 Corinthians 5:20 KJV)
There will never come a day when Ambassadors for Christ are silenced. It is the duty of an ambassador to vigorously defend and represent their homeland, the country where they hold citizenship, and the government of that land. As Ambassadors for Christ, our eternal citizenship is in Heaven; though living in a "foreign land" we represent our Homeland and have a duty to vigorously defend our nation and its Constitution as well as the Word of God.
We, as Ambassadors for Christ, have a growing dilemma facing us: How far do we go to stand in defense of our Homeland (the Kingdom of God) and its Constitution?
Unlike the kingdoms of this world, the Kingdom of God is universal, not defined by borders or boundaries. There is not a country on the face of the earth without an Ambassador residing within, representing the Kingdom of God and bound by its Constitution.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:19-22
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
Together, we are fellow-citizens with God's people, a spiritual nation, built on the foundation of faith with Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. It is our duty as citizens of such an eternal Kingdom to rightly and honorably represent this spiritual nation. As Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, certain and unalienable rights are conferred upon us and these rights are protected by the constitution of our own United States government.
The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." While far from understanding all the legal underpinnings of this clause, I understand that this protects certain rights provided to all who are citizens of these United States including our rights as Christians to believe as we choose.
What happens when an Ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven serves in the military? Should that Ambassador surrender his or her spiritual citizenship and be silenced while in active duty? Is it wrong for an Ambassador to live his or her faith, fulfill the Great Commission, and honorably discharge their duties and responsibilities to the military at the same time?
I don't believe so, not according to the Word of God. While we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we live in this world. We are to "occupy till he comes" (Luke 19:13). In other words, we are to fulfill our obligations in this world while maintaining our heavenly citizenship. But, that doesn't mean we are to be silenced or that the Great Commission is somehow to be forgotten or ignored while serving in the military.
Soldiers Bible Ministry, a member of the Heart of God International Ministries network, has recently been implicated and its mission misstated and misinterpreted by the secular news media. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has used Soldiers Bible Ministry as proof to further their cause to silence the Christian voice in the military. Every day there is more news coverage on the issue of proselytizing in the military and, while some instances cited may pose a valid concern, Soldiers Bible Ministry and Heart of God International Ministries take a strong position on proselytizing and/or breaking military code in order to force or impose one's religious beliefs on another.
The following statement has been issued by Soldiers Bible Ministry:
Soldiers Bible Ministry makes the following statement in response to questions that have arisen about the supply of Bibles (English and non-English) in Iraq and Afghanistan:
First, it is the purpose and mission of Soldiers Bible Ministry to supply Bibles (the Word of God) to military men and women, whether or not deployed, in response to the overwhelming requests by individuals and/or chaplains. This ministry does NOT in any way, shape or form support, encourage or promote anyone's violation of military code regarding proselytizing.
Second, Soldiers Bible Ministry does not ship Bibles randomly but exists to support the weighty task of the chaplaincy to minister to all those under their spiritual care. This often includes providing complete Bibles and Bible Study materials to those who request such material. This ministry has no knowledge of any recipient of Bibles and/or Bible Study material ever breaking the military code regarding proselytizing nor has this ministry ever suggested anyone do so.
Third, although Soldiers Bible Ministry is evangelical by nature, it does not force the Bible or evangelical Christian beliefs on anyone, nor does it compel any military or non-military individual to violate anyone's right to religious freedom.
Fourth, Soldiers Bible Ministry holds the Chaplaincy of the United States military in the highest of regard with the utmost of respect. Although a Christian ministry, providing the complete Bible (both English and non-English) to military bases and individuals wherever located, Soldiers Bible Ministry acknowledges and respects the work of the United States Chaplaincy to fulfill their duty to men and women of all faiths.
Finally, Soldiers Bible Ministry is privately funded. No government or military funds have ever been or ever will be used to supply Bibles or Bible Study materials to military personnel.
We believe that evangelical Christian chaplains and service men and women have the right to serve in the military and to live their faith as citizens of an eternal Kingdom. We also believe that it is possible to live a faith-filled life in the military without breaking the military code regarding proselytizing. In fact, we believe it is the duty of every Christian in the military to do so.
These rights, protected by the Constitution of our Government, apply not only to evangelical Christian chaplains, but also chaplains of other faiths, including those with whom we may not share the same views and/or beliefs. However, we heartily support the exercise of their First Amendment rights as well since, the First Amendment protects anyone's right regardless of one's faith (or lack of faith), not excluding evangelical Christians.
Although many questions have been asked and the chatter continues to escalate regarding the purpose and intent of Soldiers Bible Ministry, we have had only one direct contact asking for a statement. When we refused to respond, our purpose and intent was misunderstood or misrepresented by the inquiring party. However, we continue to defend our right to distribute Bibles (both English and non-English) to anyone who makes such a request.
Soldiers Bible Ministry currently has outstanding requests from Chaplains and other military (active and non-active) personnel for over $700,000 worth of Bibles. The demand far outweighs the supply at this time. However, as the funds become available, we will continue to ship Bibles (both English and non-English) to fill these outstanding requests and thus fulfill our part in the Great Commission.
Are we right? We believe so based on the authority of God's Word and our First Amendment Rights. Being a Christian doesn't preclude anyone from enjoying and/or expressing the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech.
Jan Ross, President and Co-Founder of Heart of God International Ministries, is a passionate and outspoken defender of the Word of Truth and the Great Commission. http://heartofgodinternational.com. For more devotional material by Jan, please take a moment to visit www.hgdevotions.com.