God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part II
A guest post by Ben Dudley
Here is Part I, the introduction, in case you missed it.
In order to argue that it is important for Christians to appeal to their governments for social change, we must first make the case for the importance of participating with government at all. When reading the beginning of Genesis one cannot help but see the calling from God to Adam to rule over the Earth. Arthur Glasser articulates this beautifully with what he refers to as the Cultural Mandate. (Glasser and Engen 2003: 38) Glasser states that from the beginning of time we have been instructed to “rule” (Gen. 1:26-27) or govern.
“These commands mark the beginning of a stream of obligation – a mandate for family and community, law and order, culture and civilization, and ecological concern that widens and deepens as it courses through Scripture. By it God calls all who bear his image to the role of vice-regents over his world, to participate responsibly in the task.” (Glasser and Engen 2003: 38)
When discussing government it is inevitable that the question of authority comes into question. Who is our master? Are we to submit ourselves to God alone or are we also to submit ourselves to the governing authorities? Paul makes it clear in Romans 13:1-7 that we are to submit ourselves to the governing authorities. Peter echoes this statement in 1 Peter 2:13-17. God has established all authority and therefore the leaders are agents of God and they are to do what is best for society in general. The problem with this system is that leaders become corrupt.
“When the leader of a nation sins, catastrophe may come to its citizens. On the basis of this, we should conclude that to love one’s neighbor as one’s self (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39) necessitates involvement in activity that seeks to curb the power of political leaders through appropriate checks and balances. To be apolitical is hardly consonant with the will of God” (Glasser and Engen 2003: 38).
Therefore we can conclude that God has created us to be active participants in government. The question is what does that mean, being an active participant? I believe that it is consistent in scripture for us to participate by advocating for social change by “appealing to Caesar.”
An appeal to those in power can come in various ways and for infinite reasons. The important thing for us to remember is God not only created us to be co-laborers, we also have a responsibility to care for the “least of these” (Matthew 25). It is clear that part of God’s mission is to care for the poor; so much so that when Israel was setting up its social structure, God instructed them to “Be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deut. 15:11). I do not believe that God’s mission stops with caring exclusively for the poor. Micah 6:8 says for us to “act justly and to love mercy.” A pastor friend of mine was telling a story of what he thought that this passage meant and he said, “Mercy is the act of caring for those who have had an injustice done to them. To act justly means finding out the cause of the unjust action and doing everything possible to bring it to a stop.” By participating in redemptive acts, we are able to show the world that God is a merciful and loving God. By appealing to governments our hope is not in the government itself; our hope is in the power of God. Our hope is that the leaders and kings will know the one true Lord.
The next two sections will be examining both the Old and the New Testament and how God’s people interacted with governments and kingdoms. The hope is to see a theme emerge out of the text helping us to see that God’s love for creation involves our active participation as an example of God’s love and mercy to the whole world. Part III starts with an OT passage.
|Ben Dudley was born and raised in Texas, though he has always felt like he belonged on the West Coast. He and his wife now reside in Portland, Oregon. Ben is a graduate of Baylor University in 1999 with a Church Recreation and Leisure Services Degree, and is currently two years into a Master of Arts in Global Leadership Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in two different churches prior to moving to Portland where he and his wife, along with a core team of people are planting a church. Ben also works with CrossTraining-US where he serves as a chaplain to professional soccer players in Portland. He considers himself a very lucky man to be married to his beautiful wife Jamie, who is his best friend and partner in ministry. They both love to travel, eat good food and spend time with friends and family.|