“A person’s religion is a private matter between that person and God,” wrote Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution a few years ago in response to a comment made by Britt Hume on Fox News. Regardless of the circumstances leading to Bookman’s comment, was he right in his assertion? Is religion a private matter?
At first, that would seem to be a reasonable statement. For instance, I don’t want the government interfering with the free exercise of my faith. I don’t want any other religious group to dictate to me when and how I should worship. To say those things, however, does not mean that religion is a private matter. I would argue that it is most certainly not!
My faith is, instead, a personal matter. Through faith in Jesus Christ, I have entered into a personal relationship with God. I was dead, but in Christ I was made alive. I was blind, but in Christ I see. I was an enemy of God, but in Christ I have become a friend of God. I was a sinner, but in Christ God sees me as holy. I was lost and apart from God, but in Christ I have become a child of God. That is personal! People can deny that what I believe is real or ridicule me for believing it, but my personal faith is my personal faith.
To say that my faith is personal is to say that it is deep and intimate. To say that my faith is private would mean that it is something that I keep it to myself. Perhaps that is what Mr. Bookman believes religion is all about, but that is not the Christian faith.
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
Prior to Jesus ascension into heaven, He spoke these words to His followers: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
If Jesus had intended the Christian faith to be a private matter, He would have directed them to keep their mouths shut and not tell a soul, but He didn’t. Jesus made it public by sending His disciples to spread the good news. Go everywhere and make disciples. But how can one do that privately?
Faith is indeed a very personal thing, but it is not a private thing. If we truly believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only way to the Father, then can we remain silent?