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The Beginning and End of Faith

It's worship.

Worship and Public Policy (1)

Praise the LORD!
Sing to the L
ORD a new song,
And His praise in the assembly of saints....
Praise the L
ORD! Psalm 149.1, 9

The fifth “L”
Our study of the Law of God and public policy concludes with one final “L”, one which may seem an unlikely contributor to public policymaking.

Nearly half the Law of God is devoted to directing God’s people in how to worship Him. And while the specific practices of that portion of God’s Law have been replaced (Heb. 7.11-18), the emphasis on worship and the idea that worship and life are related remains. The more faithful we are in worshiping the Lord the more we will love our neighbors with the justice His Law prescribes.

Thus, the final “L” of policymaking which we must consider in some greater detail is liturgy, or, put in more familiar terms, worship. As it turns out, faithful worship of God is integral to making an impact for justice and love on our communities and our world.

Recovering our impact in the public square
It is curious to consider, and a challenge to explain, the lack of Christian impact in the public square in America today. On the one hand, Christian leaders have been advocating for certain policies, supporting this or that candidate, and loudly denouncing views with which they disagree.

On the other hand, the Barna Group, a leading Christian social research agency, estimates that 45% of all Americans claim to be “born again.” That amounts to something like 150 million Americans who profess faith in the resurrected and reigning Lord Jesus Christ!

So it’s curious why the Christian impact on public policy continues to diminish.

Avenues of explanation

Why is this so? A variety of explanations might be cited.

Some Christians insist that faith and politics don’t mix, or that somehow, they exist in two different “realms” and shouldn’t have any meaningful interface. We can be good Christians, on the one hand, but that doesn’t have anything to do with our social or political views. Most Christians who hold to this view do so unconsciously: they simply have never considered whether their faith in Jesus has anything to do with the workings of culture or the institutions of our society.

Other Christians might simply regard politics as a “lost cause” and prefer to invest their time, energy, and resources in more rewarding and eternal endeavors, such as worship or missions. Politics can’t save us, so why bother with it?

Still others might say they’re doing their best to act and function as Christians in the public square, and they don’t agree with my point about the disjunction between what we profess and what we see in that arena. They think things are going just fine, quite in line with their understanding of Christian faith. Such folks may be caught up in the currents of contemporary thought and values and not recognize that they are drifting from the teaching of God and His Law.

Each of these views, and probably several more, exist among professing Christians today. And each of them should be held up to the scrutiny of Scripture. For at the end of the day, the followers of Jesus Christ have always believed that the Bible must have the last word on all matters of faith and life. We’re only truly following Jesus when we’re following Him according to His Word, and not according to what we feel or what the spirit of the age commends.

All of a piece
The short answer to the question of our diminished impact in society is simple: As Psalm 149 demonstrates, Christians worship God both as an act of religious devotion and as a matter of civic responsibility. Both the sanctuary and public square afford opportunities for believers to worship and serve God, and our faith is only fully operative when we are worshiping the Lord in both venues and everywhere in between.

Of course, I’ll need to unpack that assertion a bit more.

Psalm 149 is written in the form of an inclusio. An inclusio is a literary device that begins and ends in the same place. As our text for today demonstrates, Psalm 149 begins and ends in worship: “Praise the LORD!” To insist that the Christian life begins and ends in worship will not, I suspect, draw too many objections.

But what we see in Psalm 149 leads us to consider that, not only the beginning and end of our lives, but everything in between as well, including our relationship with government, is bound up in our calling from and duty toward our Savior and King. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, so that every moment and activity of our lives is only our “reasonable” service of worship to God (Rom. 12.1).

Christian life, in other words, is all of a piece, and in all of it we must be conscious of our duty to worship and serve God. And, as we shall see, this includes our participation in matters of public policy.

For reflection
1.  What do we mean by “public policy”? Who makes public policy? How does public policy affect the populace? Why should we care about public policy?

2.  What do we mean by “worship”? What is worship? What is it for? When should we worship? How should we worship?

3.  Apparently, worship relates to public policy. How we worship can affect public policy. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Next steps—Conversation: How should a Christian understand the relationship between faith and policy? What does your church teach on this question? What do your Christian friends think?

T. M. Moore

Our bookstore offers three resources to help you grow in knowledge of, love for, and obedience to the Law of God. Please check out The Law of God (click here), The Ground for Christian Ethics (click here), and A Kingdom Catechism (click here). The Law of God arranges all the statutes and commandments of God under one or another of the Ten Commandments. It can be a useful guide for reflection as part of your daily time with the Lord. For The Ground for Christian Ethics and A Kingdom Catechism, read the table of contents and listen to the audio excerpts to learn more about each book.

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ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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