“Religious liberty” basically means the right of every person to worship God as their conscience dictates. It also means equality before the law – not only of all forms of the Christian faith – but also of other religions as well. And – one might add – of no religion at all. People are free not to worship God if they choose not to do so.
In Luke 20:20-26, Jesus states a general principle that has specific implications concerning religious liberty. The religious leaders questioned Jesus, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (“Caesar,” of course, represented the political state of Rome at that time.) Instead of answering either “Yes” or “No,” Jesus offers this insight: Christians are citizens of both heaven and earth. As His disciples, we must not neglect the obligations of our dual citizenship to either one. Thus, Jesus recognizes that there is a legitimate distinction between the church and the state.
From this general principle flows the following implications. Religious liberty means:
•God alone is Lord of the Conscious.
•Unbiblical creeds or confessions have no authority.
•Civil disobedience is sometimes required (see Acts 5:27-29).
•No state church and no church state.
•The state has obligations to the church and the church to the state (see Romans 13:1-7).
Jesus said, “. . . render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).
Jessie J. Charpentier Sr. is pastor of Jenkins Memorial Baptist Church in St. Martinville.