Alliance Defending Freedom is known primarily as a legal ministry, and often friends, foes, and even we at ADF ourselves are apt to evaluate our work in terms of court decisions – how many judicial rulings went our way, versus the other way. It’s a fair barometer of success, as far as it goes … but perhaps, sometimes, it doesn’t go far enough.
There’s a reason the first word in our name has always been “Alliance.” ADF has always been about bringing people together to do more, side by side, than any of us can do alone. Practically, that means sharing physical and financial resources, information and accumulated legal wisdom. But, beyond that, we try to remind people of something every one of us needs to know, and often struggles to remember: none of us stands alone.
For people of faith, that can be an increasingly elusive truth at a time when the culture seems to be in spiritual and moral free fall, and when polls seems to show a growing number of people not just apathetic about things Christian, but increasingly hostile to the things of God.
So, one of the best things our organizations and others like it can do is simply remind people (as God reminded Elijah – 1 Kings 19:18) that not everyone is bowing to the idols of the age. We do that best simply by introducing people all over the world to the most courageous, principled, faithful people we know: our clients.
Recently, for instance, our ADF magazine profiled Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, the artists who own Brush & Nib Studio, a small hand-painting and calligraphy business in Phoenix. Discerning the times, and seeing what has happened to so many Christian artists in recent years, the two women realized that, sooner or later, someone was bound to walk into their studio and demand that they create an artistic message that contradicts their deep Christian faith. So, the two women opted to go pro-active.
ADF attorneys have filed a pre-enforcement challenge on the behalf of these women against a local city ordinance that threatens their civil rights and religious freedom with up to $2500 in fines and six months in jail for each day they refuse to bow. In effect, the two artists are going to court to challenge a law before the government can enforce those criminal penalties against them.
While the results of their lawsuit remain to be seen, the impact of their bold decision is already being felt by other business owners facing similar legal hurdles. One business owner who read one of our articles on Breanna and Joanna recently wrote the two women to tell them what an encouragement their story has been:
“So inspiring – I was just about to close my wedding business and after reading your article, I’m inspired to know that I can keep it and my other businesses a faith-based business. You ladies rock!”
That kind of response is not unusual for the clients of ADF. Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist who has been singled out for legal punishment by officials in that state, still marvels at the encouragement being sent her way by a pastor in India who found a copy of her story while riding on a train in his country. India is not exactly lacking in its own religious persecutions, yet over the last few years, this pastor has continued to place periodic calls and send gracious emails to Barronelle, letting her know he and his congregation are praying for her.
Stories like these, as much as any legal victory, reassure me that the work of ADF is making a good and crucial – and lasting – difference. It also reminds me of some words from a hymn you may have sung in your own church, “The Servant Song,” by Richard Gillard:
“We are pilgrims on a journey
Fellow travelers on a road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile, and bear the load.”
That’s what an alliance is for – be it a union of ministries, or churches, or legal organizations … or merely two people of faith, encouraging each other across the long miles, as we face our respective conflicts and challenges. As the final verse of Gillard’s song reminds us:
“When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.”
None of us – none of us – struggles alone against the forces that would silence our witness and denigrate our God. We have been given the gift of fellowship, and the privilege of encouraging each other.
May He bless our hearts toward one another, our prayers for one another, and our combined efforts with one another, for His glory. And may we, each and all, know the rare joy of being allied with Him in the enduring, victorious work of His kingdom.
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