I cannot find a single verse in all of scripture in which God commands or expects people who do not believe in God to think, feel, desire, and behave as if they do.
Not a single verse in which God commands a godless king to do “justice and righteousness” – to order their kingdom God’s good way.
Not a single verse in which a prophet, Jesus, Peter, or Paul demands that pagan people and their secular culture adopt God’s priorities and conform to God’s good way.
Some of my friends on the Christian Left expect government – without the power of God, without the love of God, without an understanding of God – to effectively discern, desire, and do God’s good work in the world.
Some of my friends on the Christian Right expect culture – without the power of God, without the love of God, without an understanding of God – to discern, desire, and behave God’s good way.
But without a relationship with Jesus it is impossible to discern, desire, and do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. There is no deep and lasting justice without Jesus. There are band-aids and window dressings galore but not the shalom-building, all-reconciling, kingdom-coming justice God desires. Only God’s people, discerning God’s will, desiring God’s will, and doing God’s will God’s way can bring that.
So what do we do then? Do we stop partnering with and petitioning non-Christians to act and govern justly? Do we keep silent and do nothing when politicians or neighbors act unjustly? Should God’s people stay away from politics and away from cultural critique entirely and instead devote themselves to acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with their God together?
So much ink has been spilled by far smarter folks wrestling with those questions! I have opinions and convictions, but no certainty.
Whatever route we take – culture war or political movement – we shouldn’t be shocked and offended when it goes sideways. It surely will. I’m certain of that. Scripture is very clear on this: people with no allegiance to God will lack the understanding, power and desire to do God’s will on earth.
Jesus didn’t just live and die and live again to take me to Heaven some day. He also made me a new creation, granted the understanding, power and desire to do God’s will on earth – to order earth’s chaos God’s good way.
There is no true justice without Jesus.
1 CORINTHIANS 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
PHILIPPIANS 2:13 …it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to do work for His good pleasure.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (19)that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (20)Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
The Day The Revolution Began by N.T. Wright
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The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
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Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas & William Willimon
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Christ and Culture by Richard Niebuhr
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