The Law of God and Public Policy: Begin Here (7)
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to themin the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deuteronomy 4.5, 6
Seeking the peace
It should be obvious by now that Christians have a responsibility to shape public policy according to the wisdom and understanding of the Law of God.
Nations deserve good governments (Rom. 13.1-5), and good governments require wisdom and understanding so that rulers may make and administer just laws in every area of society. The Law of God is good, as we have seen (Rom. 7.12); so we are not surprised to discover that not only our forebears but our contemporaries—whether or not they are aware of it or would agree—look to the Law of God to shape aspects of American legal practice and public policy.
But there is always room to improve justice and neighbor-love in ways consistent with the teaching of God’s Law. Christians are called to show by their lives—individually and as communities—the beauty, wisdom, and goodness of the Law of God, going beyond the letter of the Law to the breathtaking newness of its Spirit, thereby demonstrating the love, mercy, and justice of God’s Law in ways that cause our neighbors to wonder.
But beyond living out the holy and righteous and good requirements of God’s Law (Rom. 7.12; 3.31), Christians must seek to shape public policy in the direction of God’s shalom (Jer. 29.7; 1 Tim. 2.1-8). Christians know the peace of God as the fruit of His Spirit which passes all understanding (Gal. 5.22, 23; Phil. 4.6, 7). We are citizens of a Kingdom in which peace is the gift and possession of all (Rom. 14.17, 18). And we are called to live at peace with all men (Rom. 12.18) and to seek the peace and wellbeing of the nations to which God has sent us.
This we do in three ways, first, and most importantly, by our prayers and lives.
In addition, like Joseph and Daniel and countless others, Christians must be prepared to seek the peace of God for our neighbors by taking part in the actual work of government. We must be willing to serve in the political or governmental arena as opportunity allows or necessity requires, seeing this as a calling from God to extend the righteousness, peace, and joy of His Kingdom through the instruments of civil government.
Finally, Christians seek the peace of our communities and nation by working to influence and shape the policies of government. In a democracy, where “we the people” are the final word in public policy, Christians must be especially active in seeking to bring glory to God by the laws and policies enacted and administered in our name and for our wellbeing. Persuasion is the vehicle we use to accomplish such God-honoring ends.
In addition to these three means for seeking peace, the Christian is tasked with three duties in helping to influence public policy, which subsequent installments in this series will address and illustrate.
First, Christians must study to understand the Law of God in its original context and setting and with a view to its contemporary application. We must take up the discipline of reading, meditating in, and studying the Law of God with a view to gaining a clear understanding of what God intended for His people as they entered the land of Canaan back during the second millennium before the coming of Christ.
From its original context we must work hard to develop our understanding of the spirit of the Law by considering how the rest of Scripture teaches us to discern it. The right application of the Law of God, and the principles for learning to make such applications, are explained and illustrated in the Scriptures beyond the Law, especially the writings of the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Epistles of the New Testament.
Second, as we have been arguing, Christians must practice the Law as individuals and communities so that the beauty and joy and strength which come from such obedience will be evident to our unbelieving neighbors (cf. Ps. 48.1-3; Mic. 4.1-5). By obedience to the Law, as previously explained, we hope to realize the promises and demonstrate the glory of God. This hope should become visible in our obedience, thus creating possibilities for the larger application of God’s Law for His glory.
Third, we must work hard to understand the times and to discern public policies which can extend the promised blessings of God—short of salvation, which is only by the Gospel—to our neighbors and our society as whole (1 Chron. 12.32; Jer. 29.11). We must work together to understand public policy so that we can craft or commend policies that are more in keeping with the teaching of God’s Law. Then we must, by prayer and persuasion, work to implement those policies in ways appropriate to the need and the opportunity before us.
A view to the long haul
Change will often be gradual and disappointingly slow. Recall the generation-long effort to abolish slavery, the struggle for women’s enfranchisement, the civil rights campaign of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the overturning of Roe v Wade. We must nurture a vision of the coming of the Kingdom of God, as Jesus did in His parables, and consider ways of seeking the rule of Christ in every area of life, including the arena of public policy. This will require that we identify areas where public policy is not in line with God’s Word and begin to envision new policies that are more likely to honor Him and to bring the blessings of His justice and love to our nation. Believers must seek to influence the political vision of the nation in the direction of righteousness and peace. This will mean participating at all levels of the political process, seeking candidates for office who are open to considering Biblical principles and guidelines, and putting in place strategies for achieving Kingdom progress in public policy over time.
We can expect the Lord and King of His Law to bless our efforts, and to bless our neighbors as well, as we are faithful, for the long haul, in seeking to bring the love of God and neighbor to light through faithful adherence to the Law of God.
1. Why do you suppose that public policy today has little regard for what the Law of God teaches?
2. What would you say to someone who insisted that Christians should just stay out of the public policy arena?
3. What can you do to begin preparing yourself to have more influence in matters of public policy?
Next steps—Transformation: According to Psalm 1, the righteous person meditates on God’s Law day and night, day by day. Is this your practice? Should it be? What can you do to begin becoming more familiar with the Law of God?
T. M. Moore
Our book, The Law of God, arranges the statutes and rules of the Law of Moses under the Ten Commandments, as these statutes and rules relate to one or another of the Commandments. This is a great resource for meditating on God’s Law, and you can order a free copy by clicking here.
What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your free copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here.
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