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Doing Justice for all by Loving Our Neighbor

Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Prof. John Sanness, hands over the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize to Mother Teresa.Bettmann Archive



Stan Moody


I find myself rather flummoxed over this current religio/political culture. The specter of the Evangelical Christian Right collaborating with the Republican Party to go back to a revisionist Utopian past by destroying the present rather than bending to fix it is beyond me. How is the Christian doctrine of the sovereignty of God or the political agenda, “one nation under God”, reinforced by this unholy merger? No winners here – neither Church nor State, nor Christ, nor Republican Party.


Doing Justice and Loving Mercy:


More to the point, how can I, as an evangelical pastor and a firm believer in separation of Church and State, offer a course of action that preserves the mission of both? Simply put, politics is the process of negotiating a change of civil law affecting the welfare of the many, while love of neighbor focuses on changing hearts and minds, one at a time, not through majority mandate but through living witness.


Whether right or wrong, I elect simply to stand on the New Testament side of love of neighbor, however nearly impossible that may be, and on the goal set forth in the Old Testament in Micah 6:8: “…And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”.


The Result of Swimming Against the Evangelical Tide:


On the one hand, the Christian Right cries, “No politics from the pulpit!”. Yet, it is that same extreme Right that is poised to throw out the Constitution of the United States and replace it with select moral absolutes from the Bible – back to the politically failed Mosaic Law. On the other hand, the extreme Left echoes the very same cry. Yet, it is that same extreme left that finds solace in reducing faith to a personal institutional preference rather than to proven effects thereof.


As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are positioned squarely between Church and State! In that position, any work on advocating for justice and equal rights on the part of our government speaks far less about the law than about what should be the ongoing mission of the Christian life. A relatively detached interest in the welfare of those trapped beneath access to common rights and privileges largely fails the test both of political leadership and Christian discipleship.


We professing Christians have spent far too much attention in our church communities on building larger and larger congregations with far too little focus on love of neighbor, especially if that neighbor fails, for whatever reason, to honor the work ethic of the American Dream. We stand ready to justify this sinful excursion through grossly non-Christian party politics.


Time to Repent:


It is time for the Confessing Church to repent of its self-justification and embrace freedom fully found under the Sovereign Rule of God! It is time for the Republican and Democratic parties to pivot away from pretending to be the sole arbiters of truth and back to the ubiquitous doctrine of equal justice and common welfare under the law. It is time for us all to focus on the attributes of freedom within a widely disparate nation made possible only through welcome and love of the neighbor different from ourselves. 


A stanza from an old hymn, Draw Me Nearer, written in the 19th Century by blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, reminds us of how it may be possible to become advocates for change, first within ourselves; then on to the neighborhood; then forward to the nation:


There are depths of love that I cannot know

Till I cross the narrow sea;

There are heights of joy that I may not reach

Till I rest in peace with Thee.


Though blind from infancy, Crosby’s thoughts were less on the idea of a “Sweet-bye-and-bye” following death than on an ongoing quest for deeper love and joy in this life, recognizing that true, character-transforming love and joy is reachable in the present through divine grace. The path to our nation’s enrichment, then, will flow from a Church that abandons the allure of politics in favor of the transformational effect of faithful witness.

 

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