In the United States, debate is important. People are mostly free to state their opinions, regardless of their opinion's validity. Others are free to agree or disagree. Americans can freely state their objections to, concurrence with or offer suggestions to any of the governing authorities, from the small-town mayor to the president and everyone in between. This right to freedom of speech is present, in varying degrees, in much of the free world. Although not explicitly stated, freedom of thought is inherent.
Our country's founders believed that freedom of speech was important. In fact, they thought it was so important that they put freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and petition in the very first amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
"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" —First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, 1789 A.D.
This freedom of speech and thought permeates American culture. In is not unusual for people to express their opinions about everything, from politics, to the economy, to health, to the environment and to religion. The free exercise of speech, although under attack by some, has almost become synonymous with freedom.
A kingdom is different. In the Unites States, the voices of the people rule through their elected representatives. A kingdom is ruled by the king. In America, the voice of the people is paramount. In a kingdom, the word of the king is supreme. In a free society, the wishes of the people mold culture. In a kingdom, the king determines culture. Americans prosper, in part, based on their ability to convince others the value of their contribution. In a Kingdom, people flourish based on the favor of the king.
A king's word is supreme. The story of Esther and the ancient Persian (Iranian) king Ahasuerus, illustrates the point. The king had been tricked into issuing a proclamation to allow the destruction of the Jews. When the king had a change of heart his word could not be changed. Similarly, 500 years before Christ, the Persian king Darius had given a proclamation that everyone was to pray solely to him for 30 days, and that anyone who disobeyed would be thrown into the lion's den. When Daniel ignored his order, the king regretted his decision, but his degree could not be changed.
"Now, as it suits you, write in the king's name on behalf of the Jews and seal it with the king's signet ring, because a document written in the king's name and sealed with the king's signet ring cannot be repealed" (Esther 8:8).
"Then the king, when he heard these words, was sorely displeased with himself and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him. And he labored until sunset to deliver him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, 'Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed'" (Dan. 6:14-15).
Today's American culture, with its emphasis on freedom of thought and speech, has combined with a lack of kingdom knowledge to impact our relationship with God. Americans, especially those of the Millennial generation, have come to place too great of an emphasis on personal beliefs and wishes. Unfortunately, this has impacted the theology of far too many.
Hell makes me feel uncomfortable, so I choose not to believe that part of the Bible. The culture has changed, so sin as described in the Bible, is not applicable today. Everyone is good. Everyone is saved. The gods in all religions are the same god, just different ways of getting to heaven. The Bible is just a collection of ancient myths which only fools believe. Unfortunately, many are lost, or are at least not experiencing God's best, because they have placed the idol of self above the King's Word. Unfortunately, whole groups or congregations have formed based upon beliefs that are close or have crossed the line into heresy.
The kingdom of God is that sphere where God reigns, where His values, principles, culture and Word prevail. All opinions are not of equal value. Opinions and speech, based on God's Word, have eternal worth. Our King not only created us but created the universe and all things therein. His word will prevail, regardless of anything we might believe.
"The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God shall stand forever" (Isa. 40:8).
"It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17).
Sincere and well-read believers will interpret some passages of the Bible differently. When we get to heaven, we're likely to find that we were wrong on many things. But there are certain core biblical principles that all believers must hold in common. If we fail to hold these indispensable truths dear, we are not in the kingdom of God where He reigns.
Some people might believe that parts of the Bible seem unfair. For example, will those who don't know the Lord be punished with weeping and gnashing of teeth eternally? Do we actually believe that we are more compassionate, equitable or loving than the Lord? Is our opinion better than His? It would be well to remember that He is God, and we are not. We are only part of His family because of unearned grace. His thoughts and His ways are higher than ours. Let us align our lives with the word of the King who is worthy.
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord" (Isa. 55:8).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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