I am sure you’ve heard this statement when the issue of morality comes up. “You can’t legislate morality”. The truth is every law, regulation or ordinance that is proposed, passed, and enforced has in it some idea of the good that it seeks to promote or preserve making it moral in its character. There is no governing authority morally neutral. Anyone who thinks you can’t legislate morality is wrong. All laws which regulate the conduct of individuals are based on moral action.
The very foundation of the law is based on the premise of what is good for the community, the individual or the government. Anytime there is something so wrong that it demands the governing authority to establish a law-- morality has been legislated. Anytime the government legislates a law that takes away freedom it is based on the morality of the governing body.
We should be aware that ambivalence toward an action that is truly morally wrong is still based on one’s morality. Our acceptance or rejection does not mean there is no right or wrong without morality being part of the decision. The very foundation of our law is-- we believe authority has the right to punish perpetrators of wrong. So, to legislate, then, is to legislate morality. It is impossible to avoid legislating morality. We cannot separate morality from the law. The real question is not whether the political community will legislate morality; the question is whose morality will be enforced and by what sort of government.
Thirty years ago, a pastor could preach a sermon from Scripture that marriage was between one man and one woman and no one would have been concerned or would have even thought to complain to the IRS that the Church was violating the law. Issues that are political cannot be addressed from the pulpit. If a pastor were to stand in the pulpit and preach a sermon that says marriage is between one man and one woman, that sermon would be instantly deemed “political,” and somehow church-goers, and the culture at large, would assume that the Church was wrong and should stay out of “politics.”
Moral issues are being discussed politically outside the church but are being silenced in church. The church is fighting a war over fundamental issues such as the definition of marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious freedom. As these issues are fought in the public square, they frequently become politicized by a culture that increasingly turns to government to demand answers to these most fundamental of questions. Yet a pervasively darker consequence of these fundamental moral conflicts is that the Church is frequently told that when culture deems an issue “political,” it somehow becomes off-limits for the Church to address.
It seems to me that today’s pastors have a moral choice to make? To preach faithfully the counsel of God’s Word on all issues addressed by Scripture, or to self-censor and remain silent simply because some issues have been deemed “political” and therefore off limits as a sermon topic.
“Preach the Word!” the Bible exhorts us. “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) The Bible is clear in its call to pastors to boldly preach the Gospel. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I must be faithful to the call of God. Look at the moral responsibility placed upon the spiritual watchmen.
2 Chronicles 19:10 In every case that comes before you from your fellow countrymen who live in the cities--whether bloodshed or other concerns of the law, commands, decrees or ordinances--you are to warn them not to sin against the LORD; otherwise his wrath will come on you and your brothers. Do this, and you will not sin.
I have an obligation to the LORD to address the laws, commands, or ordinances of our government. There are reasons why minister must obey this command of the LORD. “… Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: 'When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of a land take a man from their territory and make him a watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.' "So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore, you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me." (Ezekiel 33:1-7)
This brings me to the moral responsibility of a minister to be obedient to God. Ministers must be alert and awake to give a distinct warning when we see individuals who would deceive the church into accepting false teaching. Minister should not be afraid to identify those who would damage the message of Jesus Christ or speak out against issues that are morally wrong. Someone once said: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." So true, yet large portions of God's church have fallen asleep at their guard posts or even failed to see the need for a faithful ministry and have paid a heavy price. Christians believe that civil government owes its existence to God and is therefore accountable to him to behave righteously in serving the common good. The role of the pastor is and always has been to declare the good news that "our God reigns" (Isa. 52:7).
Currently, the Internal Revenue Service has placed itself in the role of evaluating the content of a pastor's sermon to determine if the message is "political." We need to ask: Where did this authority come from? And more importantly, why should Americans be willing to submit to this unconstitutional power grab without even a whimper? Why is that pastors are the only people who have allowed the IRS to censor their First Amendment rights to a tax exemption they have enjoyed since the founding of our nation?
Churches are tax-exempt because they are churches, not because the government decided to bless them with a "subsidy." The church is not a profit-making business or individual. It is not getting a pass on taxes; it is simply outside the government's appropriate tax base.
It's time we exploded the false sacred/secular dichotomy that the secularists have conveniently created to silence our message. It's time we stop letting others tell us to keep Jesus inside of the church and out of the world he died to redeem. This is not about promoting political parties or agendas or establishing a "theocracy." It's about our right to bring scriptural principles and solutions to bear on contemporary social problems if we so choose. But it's our choice, not the choice of the IRS.
If we can’t discuss any and all topics, including those the IRS may deem "political," even within our communities of faith we are no more than a social club. It's time to defend our first liberty, the freedom to preach the Good News of the whole gospel, without fear of IRS censorship or sanction, to a world desperately searching for answers. Simply put, it's time for the church to be the church.