Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part VII

A guest post by Ben Dudley
If you haven’t read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V or Part VI yet, check those out first.

Let us go back to the coffee shop in Portland, Oregon.  The current trend in the local gathering places and something that I perceive to be a trend amongst evangelical Christians is fighting for social change.  Bringing an end to the injustices of this world is both significant and a kingdom act.  The question I must ask is how far do we take this appeal?

People I interact with are always seeking to discover how to participate in God’s mission.  I feel confident in suggesting that they appeal to the government on behalf of the poor, marginalized and abused people in the world.  I also believe that it is of huge significance for Christians to appeal to government on behalf of creation and the environment.   But how far do we take this appeal?  Is writing letters to Congress and the President far enough?  Discussing politics at church is looked down upon culturally.  We must begin a dialogue within our congregations to help them see that politics and faith are not mutually exclusive.  First, we must remind them that all earthly power comes from God and is a part of God’s mission for us to appeal to the government. Second, we must remind them they are accountable for their actions.

“The struggle is against the powers incarnated in very concrete forms, in institutions, in governments, in coercive bodies, and in ideologies. Christians are to live out the full reality of what it means to belong to the body of Christ.  To do so demands an encounter with the structures of political power.  It necessitates a stance of courageous resistance to those societal patterns and prejudice that discriminate via class, race, sex, and age.  It also involves encouraging the healing of all relationships, whether psychological, economic, social, or political.”  (Glasser and Engen 2003: 341)

Some very practical ways that we can begin to help teach the importance of appealing to government is through open dialogue.  We can provide a forum within the conversations of our community for people to discuss both faith and politics.  When there is an election looming over the country, this provides for an easy entry point into the conversation. Being a part of a country that some consider to be the closest thing to the Roman Empire, we are forced to ask many difficult questions regarding war, economics, trade, and the environment.  Another question the leadership of the church must address is: are we willing to allow these conversations to influence not only our thoughts but also our actions?  It is easy to discuss the need to appeal to Caesar; it is much more difficult to act upon it. The conclusion is next.

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.

4 Responses to God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part VII

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Dream Awakener » God Calls Us to Advocate for Social Change by “Appealing to Caesar” – Part VII -- Topsy.com

  2. RobS says:

    Ben, enjoyed the ‘series’ of thoughts — thanks a million.

    A few thoughts as well… I see a trend for “social change” developing and in many ways it’s good — but I do get weary when I see a church based teaching that talks about social change for 45 minutes and doesn’t mention the Lord Jesus Christ once. I’ve heard a few podcasts that run that trend and it’s rather disturbing. I know that’s not your message here, but the risk to become “activists” for good without God’s power is troubling.

    Also, government waste and abuse always has me concerned. My government wants my tax dollars for some things that are truly a waste and those things often concern me. Any organization of such size is going to have numerous inefficiencies and politics that drive decisions, often for the ill of those that pay the bills.

    Macro problem solving: the government can provide some good in large scale macro problems and address those, but often fails on the micro level. While appealing for macro assistance among other political bodies in the world, let’s make sure those of us on the ground are able to provide the “micro assistance” within our communities (and beyond) on a more regular basis. When small and local things present themselves, we can provide our own action that solves the problem — and can skip the effort to delegate or transfer responsibility to government.

    Delegation of rights & responsibilities: extended from ideas above — it’s good to remember the government can’t do it all and will fail at some things. In those cases, the local non-profit, church, and individuals like us are tasked to step up to unclog the sink of the widow or rake a few leaves …

    Political process: we’ll always have some minor differences in how we see the government providing solutions. To be “Statesmen” (& women!) we will need to rise above the politics and politely identify those ways where laws can maybe help solve the problems (or mitigate them more). Of course, reducing the name-calling and in-fighting that goes with politics on the 6pm newscast (as these events never fix or improve anything). Also, we need to all make sure we’re not judging (even in a “quiet” sense) those that may have different political bumper stickers.

    Great idea to frame these thoughts around true Biblical examples as well…

  3. Ben says:

    Thanks for your comments Rob. And I agree with you that governments are really good at wasting money, being inefficient and making decisions based solely around getting re-elected and or being paid off.
    I guess this is the point of what I am trying to say in this article. As the church, our involvement with government isn’t to expect that government will “be” the church. It can’t. The church has a hard enough time “being” the church. But I do believe that the church has a responsibility to stand up before Caesar and proclaim the message of Love, grace, redemption and forgiveness. Not that we expect governments to change or to respond but we hope by the power of Christ love someone will hear the message of hope and love and their life will be changed.

  4. Kevinmace says:

    Isn’t appealing to Caesar before and during Jesus’s life what eventually led to the Jewish leaders compromising their faith, which eventually led to AD70 and their destruction (which was actually a judgement). The actual downfall I think started back in Samuel when Israel wanted a king. They wanted to have art and music and a culture like the kingdoms around them rather than wanting God alone. Before they were a kingdom they were a collection of tribes and the New Testament church reminds me of a collection of tribes connected by the Holy Spirit to form the body of Christ with Him as the head.
    But as the writings of the Bible end, history shows a similar path of God’s people wanting a king (pope, leader, etc.) and the comfort of a kingdom (organized religion, state religion, etc.) rather than simply wanting Christ.
    For the church to want to partner with government is not a new thing. It’s been happening for thousands of years and it always ends the same.

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