Friday, April 3, is a day to remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Sunday, April 5, is a holiday set aside to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Why were these events so significant?

“…the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son…” (Isaiah 7:14) – “And she (Mary) will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) – “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” (Mark 9:31) – …“For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth …” (John 18:37) – …“It is finished!”… (John 19:30 – …“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen!”… (Mark 16:6) New King James Version

From His birth on what we call Christmas, it was God’s plan that Jesus Christ would shed His blood as the payment for the sins of His people. What was it that led people of that day to arrest and to kill the One whose only crime was that which He said concerning Himself?

In Palestine at the time of Jesus Christ, the ultimate ruling government was Rome. The Roman government in Palestine was intent on maintaining authority and was ever-vigilant to any potential uprising. However, even though Palestine was under the oppressive rule of Rome, the Jewish people were allowed a religious government subservient to Rome. After only three years of ministry Jesus Christ was deemed a threat to the Jewish religious system and then ultimately to Rome. Intolerance of differing religious ideas resulted in the execution of Jesus Christ.

Many hundreds of years later a new government in a new country was adopted. The United States was created as a place of freedom, and especially of religious freedom. The Constitution was implemented by the founding fathers to define the function of government. As a companion to the Constitution, it was recognized that basic freedoms of individuals must also be explicitly recognized. The first two phrases of the First Amendment to the Constitution were intended to establish religious liberty and the next two to establish the ability to maintain that liberty. They read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press…” There was not to be any state religion that would then become intolerant of other religions, nor was there to be any restraint of the exercise of religion. Intolerance was not to be tolerated.

As a result, the United States became very tolerant of religious freedom. Unfortunately, there have been and are worldwide movements that seek to impose their religious or anti-religious (secular) beliefs on the rest of the world. In the not-so-distant past, we have seen Nazi Germany make a horrendous attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. The atheistic Soviet Union and its successors inflicted severe persecution towards Christians and Jews alike. In recent weeks we have seen wholesale beheadings of individuals claimed to be Christian by radical Islamists. Jewish people in France were slaughtered recently simply for their being Jewish. Synagogues have been attacked in England by mobs seeking to destroy them. Worldwide religious tolerance is under severe attack.

What is the status of religious tolerance in the United States today? Freedom to assemble and worship still flourishes. However, today there are many examples of “the free exercise thereof” being violated. Military chaplains are sanctioned for upholding their faith, students in public school are prohibited from publicly expressing their beliefs, a town must be careful as to what is displayed in the town square, and businesses and/or religious organizations are forced to comply with government regulations that contradict their religious convictions.

Often the claim of “separation of church and state,” which is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, is utilized as the rationale for this aggressive secularization. The “progressives” in our society have become so obsessed with the exclusion of church from the state, that tolerance for “the free exercise thereof” is being trampled.

Can the intolerance of religious liberty be stopped or even reversed? If the intolerance is to be changed, it must come from each of us as we exercise our freedoms and demand that those we elect adhere to what the founding fathers included in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Speak out and stand for your religious freedoms and at the same time be thankful that an article such as this is permitted to be printed in this paper by a free press.

Attend church services this Sunday and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His victory over death and intolerance. Remember that, “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).