June 25, 2020
Though God has appointed unique purposes for each of his children, as Christians, we all share a common purpose, and that is to make disciples and make the gospel known to all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). When we make the life-altering decision to lay down our lives and follow Christ, we can expect hardship, we can expect persecution, and we can expect for the enemy to wage war against us to keep us from spreading the Good News.
Sharing the gospel rarely makes the news. But one woman by the name of Gail Blair caught the media’s attention recently when she was banned from a public park in Rhode Island for two years for sharing the gospel with a passersby. Blair suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a medical condition that has made her blind. This has never stopped her from boldly sharing her faith, offering people a copy of the Gospel of John, or striking up conversations with people about Jesus. What did stop her, however, was a clear bias against Christians from exercising their First Amendment rights and freely practicing their faith.
The reality is that we are fighting against principalities, power, and darkness (Ephesians 6:12). As the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just revised to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” it seems as though Christians with sincerely held biblical beliefs about sexuality will now face even more discrimination in public settings. In Blair’s case, local authorities told her that she was “trespassing” on public property. But it is clear that the only “crime” Blair is guilty of is witnessing to beliefs that are being suppressed under the pretext of “trespassing.”
Not only was Blair’s right to freedom of speech violated, her freedom of religion was abridged as well. Blair, a former nurse, believes sharing the gospel is a way she can still care for people despite her physical impairment. When the Police Department dug deeper for evidence of violating guidelines expected by park goers, it was found that there was no reasonable cause for Blair to be banned by The Memorial and Library Association. Threatening to arrest her if she enters the park again is nothing less than a clear violation of her First Amendment rights.
If anyone knows persecution, it is Jesus, who was mocked, beaten, stoned, and killed on a Roman cross. Of course, what we face as Christians today does not compare to the pain Jesus endured during the crucifixion. However, as his image bearers and followers, we are called to follow him, even to the point of death if required (Matthew 16:24). In fact, Christians in closed countries around the world regularly face intimidation, threats, and physical persecution because of their faith. In the United States we are blessed with religious liberty, and we should never take this right for granted.
However, it is also important to recognize that the religious freedom we have in this country is under assault. Christians should not sit idly by while the world attempts to strip us of these rights which help us carry out the Great Commission. We must put on the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), equip ourselves by reading and applying God’s Word to our lives, allow Scripture to be the cornerstone on which we live and breathe, and be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15). Just as God is our defender, we are also his defendants during our time on earth. He deserves all the glory and praise as our Creator for giving us mouths to speak, ears to listen, eyes to see, and hearts to connect.
Blair is not backing down from her beliefs and her rights, and neither should we. Sharing the gospel can be a daunting, exhilarating, nerve-wracking experience. We are bound to face rejection, just like Blair. But it is through rejection, ridicule, and through looking different that we will grow and become more and more like Jesus. Our fear of man should weigh much less than our fear of the Lord. Easier said than done, yes. But, when we have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, we can conquer great things in the Lord’s name.
Is it upsetting that one of our own sisters in Christ has been banned from visiting her nearby public park for simply sharing the Good News? Absolutely. So, what is our defense? Jesus and prayer. We follow a God that is just, a God that sees all things on earth. We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Therefore, we should link arms with Blair in prayer for her and for this country. This world is in desperate need of our Savior. It is our responsibility to be the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), to reflect God’s heart by speaking his truth accompanied by love to those we encounter.
As believers, we must stand united to defend our religious freedom and to share the heart-transforming gospel with people. Only through the power of God can we make a difference for his Kingdom. Equip yourselves with his word, step out of the boat in full faith (Matthew 14:22-23), invite a friend or coworker to church this weekend, and be a discipler.
Brooke Brown is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.