By / Jul 19

My father died Feb, 11, 2022, in the presence of family, but in the care of strangers. He was in memory care for his dementia. Although we were with him 12 hours a day, family members were limited in what we could do. We could not provide his medications, treat his symptoms, or offer a meaningful prognosis. We were not trained physicians, nurses, or caregivers, so we had to rely on strangers. They were, to a person, professional, compassionate, caring, and competent, but they were strangers nonetheless. Prior to his admission, they did not know my dad or us, and we did not know them. This is more often the case these days than not in the context of contemporary health care.

Prior to 1880, in what seems like another world, few people had even heard of a hospital, much less an assisted living community or memory care. When family members got sick, they were cared for by their kinfolk or a neighbor. If there was a doctor nearby, he might visit the home as needed, but he might be miles away. Only the largest of cities—Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston—had a hospital. With the growth in population in the United States and the development of medical technologies, however, more hospitals were needed.

As Charles Rosenberg shows in his volume, The Care of Strangers, The Rise of America’s Hospital System, in many ways the modern hospital owes its origins to Judeo-Christian compassion. Evidence of the vast expansion of faith-based hospitals is seen in the legacy of their names: Good Samaritan, St. Vincent’s, St. Luke’s, Mt. Sinai, Presbyterian, Mercy, Baptist, Methodist, and Beth Israel. These were all charitable hospitals, some of which began as foundling hospitals to care for abandoned children.

Similarly, in Europe, great hospitals were built under the auspices of the same tradition. Indeed, an ancient French term for hospital is hôtel-Dieu (“hostel of God”). In 1863, the Société Genevoise d’Utilité Publique called on Swiss Christian businessman Jean Henri Dunant to form a relief organization for caring for wartime wounded. Thus, the emblem of the Red Cross was codified in the Geneva Convention one year later. In Britain, Dame Cicely Saunders founded the hospice movement by establishing St. Christopher’s Hospice in the south of London in 1967.

In his impressive history, Medicine & Health Care in Early Christianity, Gary Ferngren observes: 

The Christian understanding of the imago Dei, viewed in light of the doctrine of the Incarnation, was to have four important consequences for practical ethics that became increasingly apparent as Christianity began to penetrate the world of the Roman empire (p. 98).

Those consequences included:

  1. The impetus for Christian charity and philanthropy.
  2. The basis for the believe that every human life has absolute intrinsic value.
  3. A new perception of the body and indeed of the human personality.
  4. A redefinition of the poor.

The concept of the church’s care of “the poor” argues Ferngren, 

was basic to the founding of the earliest hospitals. The hospital was, in origin and conception, a distinctively Christian institution, rooted in Christian concepts of charity and philanthropy. There were no pre-Christian institutions in the ancient world that served the purpose that Christian hospitals were created to serve, that is, offering charitable aid, particularly health care, to those in need (p. 124).

The “care of strangers” is an extraordinary legacy of the Christian tradition. Caring for those who are ill is foundational to an acknowledgement of every individual being made in the image of God, an expression of Christian hospitality, and an extension of neighbor love. These are virtues both deep and wide in Christianity. After all, the apostle John said, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17); and James reminded his readers that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

To be crude, it’s one thing to aid a family member in the bathroom; it’s something else entirely to do so for a stranger. Over and over again, I asked my dad’s caregivers why they did what they did. Every one said it was a calling. They felt called to serve in such a sacrificial way those who could not care for themselves. And more often than not, they confessed that it was their love of Christ and love for those he came to redeem that was their greatest motivation.

I thank God for the rich legacy of Christian caregiving we have been entrusted by our forefathers and foremothers. Their service has shown us what it means to love God by loving our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37). Most of all, I am for those selfless strangers who were called to care for my dad in his time of greatest need. In so doing, they faithfully upheld the inherent dignity given to him by his Creator and gave our family an invaluable peace of mind that Dad was in good, kind, and caring hands. 

By / Jul 7

Many pastors are in the midst of an identity crisis. As the importance of religion in the American psyche wanes, along with the unique experience of a global pandemic, churches are experiencing a corresponding decrease in attendance, baptisms, and budgets. Too many pastors find themselves scrambling to apply the secrets of secular business to the local church. Christian publishers have responded by publishing innumerable books each promising a “silver bullet,” multipoint plan that will fix all the issues in the local church. While there is indeed value in strategic planning and discipleship models, many pastors, myself included, have bought the book and tried the plan only to learn that ministry is not reducible to a multistep process. In this setting, Herold Senkbeil’s The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart is a breath of fresh air.

Developing a pastoral habitus

In The Care of Souls, Senkbeil (M.Div. and STM, Concordia Theological Seminary) combines lessons he learned watching his father work on the family farm with over three decades of pastoral experience to provide practical advice to pastors. Senkbeil argues that pastors need to develop a pastoral habitus. Senkbeil defines a habitus as “a pastoral temperament or character worked by the Holy Spirit through his means” (17). Seminaries cannot teach a habitus, nor can a pastor develop a habitus by reading the newest book on pastoral ministry. Pastors refine a pastoral habitus through years spent patiently walking with the church in faithful ministry. Through the failures and successes of his ministry, the pastor slowly develops his habitus.

Senkbeil’s concept of a pastoral habitus is promising. The rigidity of silver-bullet solutions to local church woes is why most multistep plans fall far short of their lofty goals. What works in my church in the Cajun country of Louisiana would almost certainly be an abject failure in a large urban church. Senkbeil’s habitus has much more flexibility. Instead of offering a one-size-fits-all approach, Senkbeil encourages pastors to be faithful to their calling while acknowledging that pastors fulfill their calling in countless ways. The ultimate goal is faithfulness; however, faithfulness can look different in different settings.

A pastoral habitus begins with understanding who a pastor is and what a pastor should be doing. The pastor is, first and foremost, a servant of Christ. As a servant, the pastor’s highest aspirations are faithfulness and obedience. Senkbeil uses the apt example of a sheepdog and shepherd to illustrate this point. Pastors are to God what sheepdogs are to shepherds. The sheepdog does not know everything that the shepherd is planning. The sheepdog merely does what the shepherd has taught it to do. Likewise, as pastors, we are not privy to all of God’s plans. Indeed, his ways are often inscrutable. He is truly a God of surprises. Our highest goal is to be faithful servants of God our King.

God’s command to pastors is simple and yet complex. God has called pastors to lead Christians closer to himself. On one hand, this charge simplifies ministry greatly. Pastors and congregations have seemingly illimitable ideas of what a pastor ought to be doing. At times, serving as a pastor can feel like being the CEO of a small corporation! In this setting, having the single goal of leading people to know and love Christ is refreshingly simple.

On the other hand, the call to lead people closer to God is incredibly complex. As Senkbeil recognizes, pastors lead people closer to God in many different ways. Pastors will find Senkbeil’s view of Scripture refreshing. Senkbeil argues that one of the ways pastors lead people closer to God is by rightly applying the Word of God to everyday experience. When sitting by a hospital bed, a pastor can lead a person closer to God by comforting them with Scripture. Likewise, pastors can lead people closer to God by helping people understand their identity in light of Christ. In Christ, they are a new creation and have been given victory over sin, and pastors can help people embrace this view of themselves. 

Senkbeil also stresses the importance of the pastor’s spiritual standing. Indeed, pastors ignore their spiritual standing at their own peril. Senkbeil argues that too often pastors focus on the external problems in their church without realizing that most external problems have an internal, spiritual root. As God’s missionaries, pastors and their families are the target of demonic attention and hatred. To lead people closer to God, pastors must have a healthy devotional life full of Scripture and prayer. Indeed, Senkbeil argues that all pastors need a pastor to hold them accountable. 

Leading people closer to God while remaining personally devoted to the faith is a multifaceted undertaking that cannot be succinctly described in a single book. The complexity of God’s simple call on the pastor’s life is why pastors need a pastoral habitus. Senkbeil’s book is refreshingly different from most books on pastoral ministry precisely because he never provides a blueprint for how to establish a pastoral habitus. Such blueprints are simply too rigid to withstand the demands of the pastorate. Instead, Senkbeil provides the basic building blocks. By being faithful to God and their church, any pastor can develop a pastoral habitus tailored to their specific context, and Senkbeil’s book is a welcome companion along the way.

By / Jun 6

The American church is facing an abuse crisis. Is your church doing all it can to be safe for survivors and safe from abuse?

What is the Caring Well Challenge?

The Caring Well Challenge (CWC) is a unified call to action on the abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention. The goal is to equip churches to be safe for survivors and safe from abuse. It provides churches with an adaptable and attainable pathway to immediately enhance their efforts to prevent abuse and care for abuse survivors.

We urge all Southern Baptist churches to commit to taking the challenge over the next year as an important next step in addressing the crisis of abuse. Beginning at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, churches will commit to the challenge and find resources for the initiative at caringwell.com.

The centerpiece of the Caring Well Challenge is your church’s commitment to empower a Caring Well Team to lead a year-long effort to enhance how your church addresses abuse. Tools and training will be provided throughout the Caring Well Challenge to give your church the resources it needs to take each step. The eight steps involved are—Commit, Build, Launch, Train, Care, Prepare, Share, and Reflect.

Is your church ready to commit to the Caring Well Challenge?

What’s involved in the Caring Well Challenge?

The Caring Well Challenge is a 12-month, eight-step process of listening, learning, assessing, and launching needed initiatives to ensure that your church is safe for survivors and safe from abuse. Each church that takes the Caring Well Challenge would commit to these eight steps—Commit, Build, Launch, Train, Care, Prepare, Share, and Reflect.

Here are more details about each step:

1. Commit: Commit to the Caring Well Challenge

The first of the eight steps in the challenge is simple. Sign up for the Caring Well Challenge so that you get updates throughout the year on what your church needs to be doing next and aids to accomplish your next steps.

For the sake of the most vulnerable in our churches and community, we ask you to take this challenge. If your church is ready to commit, you can sign up here.

2. Build: Build a Caring Well Team to lead your church’s effort

Your second step is vital for an initial commitment to become more than good intentions. We are asking you to build a “Caring Well team” to coordinate your church’s efforts in the remainder of this campaign.

This team should be comprised of a small group of key leaders from your pastoral staff, student ministry, children’s ministry, women’s ministry, or marriage ministry. This Caring Well team will ensure that the remaining steps are achieved.

If you have church members with a background in social work, law enforcement, counseling, or education—fields experienced in responding to abuse—they would make excellent team members. If you have a church member who has experienced abuse, and is far enough along in their recovery for this to be a healthy experience for them, they would offer an immensely valuable perspective.

3. Launch: Launch the Caring Well Challenge

Your entire congregation needs to know your church is taking the Caring Well Challenge. August 25, 2019, is the Sunday when churches embracing the challenge will officially launch and explain their efforts. Though August 25, 2019, is the date most churches will launch the challenge, you are welcome to select another Sunday if a similar date works better for your church’s calendar.

The third step is to set aside time during your Sunday services to do four things:

  1. Acknowledge the need for churches to grow in their awareness about, prevention of, and response to incidents of abuse. For survivors in your church, this may be the first time they’ve heard people in leadership acknowledge the need to grow in an area that has so radically impacted their life.
  2. Explain the Caring Well Challenge so that your church knows what you will be doing over the next year.
  3. Introduce your Caring Well team so that your church knows who will be leading the effort over the next year.
  4. Pray for (a) those who are processing their own experience of abuse, (b) your church’s Caring Well team, commissioning them, and (c) for the church at large to grow in this area.

Resources on this step will be sent to every church that signs up and will be available soon to help you conduct this portion of your service with clarity, compassion, and excellence.

4. Train: Train your team at the 2019 ERLC National Conference

Before your church begins to implement changes, it is important to ensure that your leaders are well trained on the issue of abuse. The fourth step in the challenge is to equip your Caring Well team through the 2019 ERLC Caring Well Conference on October 3-5, 2019, in Dallas.

Your team will have the opportunity to listen to survivors, learn from experts, and leave equipped with an understanding of the full spectrum of abuse issues. Everything about this conference is designed with the intent of equipping your Caring Well team.

This conference will also be available online, so travel will not be an obstacle for anyone wanting the training. Churches are also encouraged to pursue additional training from state conventions, associations, and other partners.

The conference will equip your Caring Well team with the tools it needs to lead your church effectively through the Caring Well Challenge. Register your team today.

5. Care: Equip leaders through Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused

It is not enough for your Caring Well team to be the only members of your church equipped to care well for the abused. The entire leadership structure of church—paid staff and key volunteers—needs to be equipped to care well.

When a survivor of abuse is ready to confide his or her experience to someone in your church, that individual will talk with whomever he or she trusts most. That is why everyone in key roles at your church needs a basic level of training.

Step five is for your pastoral staff to go through the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum. This is a free 12-video curriculum. Each video is 20 minutes and is available in English and Spanish. At the conclusion of the training your pastoral staff will be advised to send select videos to key lay leaders in your church.

Read more about the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum.

6. Prepare: Enhance policies, procedures, and practices related to abuse

One of the main reasons your church is committing to the Caring Well Challenge is because it desires to do all it can to ensure that it is safe from abuse. This sixth step in the challenge seeks to prepare your congregation to prevent abuse.

Whether your church has extensive systems for abuse prevention or is just at the early stages, every church can benefit from an effort to review and enhance its prevention practices, policies, and procedures.

In this sixth step, your Caring Well team will evaluate your church’s policies designed to prevent abuse—both the policies you have on record and the actual implementation of those in practice.

7. Share: Dedicate Sunday services to address abuse

Every successful journey has a beginning and conclusion. The same is true for the Caring Well Challenge. While the commitment to safety and excellent care persists, your congregation needs to know what came from the Caring Well Challenge they heard about back in August.

Step seven is to dedicate your Sunday services on May 3, 2020, or a similar date, to focus on the subject of abuse and highlight the results of your efforts in the Caring Well Challenge. Though May 3, 2020, is the date most churches will conduct Caring Well Sunday, you are welcome to select another Sunday if a similar date works better for your church’s calendar.

During this service you will have the opportunity to do four things:

  1. Equip your church to understand what the Bible says about abuse and the refuge God wants His church to be.
  2. Allow your Caring Well team to review the outcomes from each of the elements in the Caring Well Challenge.
  3. Acknowledge the continued need for growth in this area. We want to always be improving in how we prevent and care for the abused.
  4. Pray for those who are still healing from abuse and that God would allow the effects of the Caring Well Challenge to be lasting in the churches that participated. 

8. Reflect: Reflect on the Caring Well Challenge at the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting

What you did as a church on May 3, 2019, we want to do as a denomination at the 2020 Annual Meeting in Orlando. As a denomination, we want to resolve to continue our collective work to make our churches safe for survivors and safe from abuse.

To help us do this we will ask you to do two things as the Caring Well Challenge reaches a conclusion:

  1. Let us know you completed the Caring Well Challenge.
  2. Share stories with us of how it impacted your church and what you learned in the challenge.

How can you sign up to take the challenge?

Visit caringwell.com to learn more and sign up!

Churches should be a refuge for those who have experienced abuse. But, too often, survivors haven’t found the protection they deserve and the care they need from the church. Our churches should also be places that are safe from abuse. Are you ready to join us in changing this by committing to the Caring Well Challenge?

By / Jan 19

Jenny Yang discusses caring for the vulnerable at the Evangelicals for Life 2018 Conference. 

By / Jan 19

Rich Stearns discusses the implications of Matthew 25 on human dignity at the Evangelicals for Life 2018 Conference in Washington DC. 

By / Jan 19

Ann Voskamp discusses the Gospel and its implications on global refugee care at the Evangelicals for Life 2018 Conference in Washington DC. 

By / Mar 15

This week marks the five-year anniversary of the Syrian Civil War. The war has its roots with the Arab Uprising, but the popular movement that overthrew dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has resulted in stalemate in Syria. As of today, control of Syria’s territory is divided between dozens of armed militias from across the political, ethnic, and theological spectrum that have formed a smaller number of shifting alliances. Territory shifts hands daily, even under the terms of the ceasefire that is now in effect.

The net result, in human terms, is the worst, most acute humanitarian disaster in a generation. Today over half of the entire population of Syria has fled their homes because of the conflict.

Of the estimated six million Syrians who have left their homes and fled Syria, Germany alone has received nearly 500,000. Another half million have left for other countries in the European Union. Turkey has received 2.7 million; Lebanon 1.5 million, and Jordan 1.4 million.

To date, the United States has received 2,819. There are, of course concerns about terrorists infiltrating the United States and our leaders should be vigilant in their oversight. But as many have demonstrated, the Refugee Admission Program is one of the least likely ways for a terrorist to try to obtain permanent residency or citizenship in the United States.

Christians know from Matthew’s gospel that Jesus tells us that the way we treat the “least of these” shows who we are in Christ. But this raises the question: what should the church do and what role should the church play in advocating for a country to fulfill commands given to the church? There are many ways of answering this question, but let us look at how the SBC has historically responded to the refugee situation in the past.

The SBC’s response to the refugee crisis after World War II

World War II produced what was then the greatest humanitarian disaster the world had known. Much of Europe had been reduced to rubble, scarred with long trench lines, and pocked by carpet bombing. At the end of the war, between seven and 11 million people had been forced to leave their homes.

By 1947, nearly two years after the war had come to an end, over a million people were still living in camps without a home. It was in this moment in 1947 that the SBC issued its “Resolution on Displaced Persons,” resolving that:

the Southern Baptist Convention go on record as favoring the admission by the United States of its fair share of those displaced people, such share amounting to 400,000 over a period of the next four years, and urge the Congress to provide emergency legislation to accomplish this result.

The SBC collectively recognized that the United States had an obligation to the rest of the world, and to Europe in particular, to do our “fair share” of creating homes and providing a homeland for those that had found themselves homeless because of the war.

The next year, Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. It is difficult to say what role the SBC specifically played in helping this bill to be passed as many other church and religious organizations had joined in the call to accept more refugees. But suffice it to say that the SBC felt it was important to “go on record” that they were in favor of opening the doors to refugees from Europe.

There were problems with the implementation of the Displaced Persons Act, leading to a delay in the number of refugees accepted by the United States through the new refugee program. This promoted the SBC to speak again in 1949, resolving:

That the Southern Baptist Convention is in favor of the amendment of the Act to bring to the United States 400,000 such persons in four years and the removal of discriminatory clauses hampering the main purpose of the Act.

But there was something more. The onset of tensions with the Soviet Union and the early years of the Cold War had raised concerns about the compatibility of refugees from Communist countries with the American way of life. So this resolution added that “due care should be maintained in selecting individuals friendly to our form of government and likely to become good citizens.”

It took longer than four years, but by 1952, 400,000 refugees had been resettled in the United States. More than 70 percent of these were from Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Today

Today, six million Syrians are looking for a better life. Worldwide, there are more than 60 million refugees who have left their homes because of conflict or fear or persecution in their homeland.

What should the United States do? In 2015, the United States had accepted 0.042 percent of the total refugees registered by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Many are asking good questions about the assimilation of refugees within America. This is an important concern as the United States should balance both compassion and security concerns.

For Christians in America, loving our neighbors is usually not easy, usually not uncomplicated, and usually not inexpensive. We must balance wisdom and compassion and make sure that we don’t become like the lawyer in the parable of the good Samaritan, who asked “who then is my neighbor?”

In the meantime, let us pray for those that are suffering, both our Christian brothers and sisters and those who, through our compassion, might be compelled to embrace Christ.

By / Aug 11

Dan Darling interviews Mike Wittmer about the way Christians view this earth and how eschatology informs how we engage the culture around us.

By / Aug 4

During the course of a presidential campaign, it is common to hear evangelicals, especially younger ones, quip, “I’m just not that interested in politics,” or, “Politics just aren’t my thing.” These dismissive remarks are often delivered with a veneer of piousness implying that political engagement is inherently defiled, occupying an arena unfit for those serious about the gospel. For those inundated with television ads, robo-calls, campaign mail and the overall negative tone of politics, this might be a tempting position to adopt. However, it is not a position Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians can or should accept as congruent with Scripture.

The message of the gospel is that by grace through faith sinners can be reconciled with God (Ephesians 2:7-8). This message transforms individuals and enables them to lead godly lives. Mandated by Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20), Christians are charged to share the good news and disciple others in faith.

The gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians engage the political process. Here are four reasons Christians should care about politics:

1. The Christian worldview speaks to all areas of life.

A frequently raised objection against Christian engagement with politics is that anything besides explicit preaching and teaching of the Bible is a distraction from the mission of the church. However, this is a limited understanding of the kingdom of God and contrary to examples in Scripture.

The Christian worldview provides a comprehensive understanding of reality. It speaks to all areas of life, including political engagement. In fact, the Bible speaks about civil government and provides examples of faithful engagement.

  • In the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel served in civil government, exerting influence to further the flourishing of their nations.

  • In the New Testament, Jesus engaged in holistic ministry, caring for the spiritual and physical needs of people. Feeding the hungry and healing diseases were an outworking and extension of the reconciliatory message of the gospel.

  • Paul also advocates this approach: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10). And: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Engaging in “good works” should include participating in the political process because of the legitimate and significant role of government. The decisions made by government have a substantial impact on people and the way we interact with them. A Christian worldview should include a political theology that recognizes every area of life must be included in the “good works” of believers, especially politics, an area with significant real-life implications for people.

2. Politics are unavoidable.

As “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), it can be tempting for Christians to adopt a mindset that earthly governing systems are inconsequential to the task of furthering the gospel. But ask a pastor in an underground church or a missionary attempting to access a closed country if politics are inconsequential. Religious liberty, passports and visas are not unnecessary luxuries but are often vital for pastors and missionaries seeking to preach and teach the gospel.

Augustine’s City of God offers guidance on this point. Believers are citizens of the “City of God,” but on this side of eternity, we also belong to the “City of Man” and therefore must be good citizens of both cities. There are biblical examples of how membership in the earthly city can be leveraged for furthering the reach of the heavenly. Paul’s appeal to his Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37, 22:25) is a model of this.

In an American context, engaging these dual cities takes on added significance because of the words prefacing the Constitution: “We the people.” In the United States, ultimate national sovereignty is entrusted to the people. James Madison explained that the “consent of the people” is the “pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.” This reality makes politics unavoidable for American citizens who control their political future.

Because politics have real-world implications for Christian evangelism, missions and preaching the gospel, Christians ought to engage the political process by leveraging their rightful authority, advocating for laws and policies that contribute to human flourishing.

3. We need to love our neighbor.

When questioned by religious authorities on the law, Jesus explained that loving God with heart, soul and mind was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37). He added that second in priority was: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Followers of Christ are called to love and serve their neighbors (Matthew 28:19-20). When asked about the qualifications of “neighbor,” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), indicating that irrespective of race, background, social status or occupation, neighborly love is owed.

In a very real sense, politics is one of the most important areas in which Christians demonstrate love to neighbor. In fact, how can Christians claim to care about others and not engage the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? Caring for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and lonely is important to Jesus and should be to His followers as well. Jesus said, “As you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Fulfilling the biblical mandate to love neighbor and care for the “least of these” should be a priority for every believer. Again, a holistic approach is essential. Loving neighbor includes volunteering at a homeless shelter, as well as influencing laws that encourage human flourishing. Good government and laws are not negligible factors in the prosperity and freedom of a society.

For example, the majority of North Koreans are held in economic bondage by corrupt political forces, whereas in South Korea, citizens are given liberty and a system that encourages prosperity. The people of North Korea need more than food pantries and improved hospitals; they need political leadership and policies that recognize human rights. Advocating for these changes in totalitarian countries is crucial for loving our neighbors in oppressed areas.   

Obedience to the golden rule includes seeking laws that protect unborn children, strengthen marriages and families, advocate for the vulnerable, and provide opportunity for flourishing. Politics is a means of effecting great change and must be engaged by Christians who love their neighbor.

4. Government restrains evil and promotes good.

Government derives its authority from God to promote good and restrain evil. This mandate is expressly stated in Romans 13:1-7. Elsewhere, Paul urges that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Paul understood the need for Christian participation in government.

Government plays a role in the work of God’s kingdom on earth. Good government encourages an environment conducive for people living peaceably, whereas bad government fosters unrest and instability. Because of sin, the legitimate institution of government has, at times, been used illegitimately throughout history. However, numerous examples persist of Christians reasserting their influence and redeeming government to promote good and restrain evil.

In How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt documents Christian influence in government. Examples include outlawing infanticide, child abandonment and gladiatorial games in ancient Rome, ending the practice of human sacrifice among European cultures, banning pedophilia and polygamy, and prohibiting the burning of widows in India. William Wilberforce, a committed Christian, was the force behind the successful effort to abolish the slave trade in England. In the United States, two-thirds of abolitionists were Christian pastors. In the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian pastor, helped lead the civil rights movement against racial segregation and discrimination.

Carl Henry rightfully stated that Christians should “work through civil authority for the advancement of justice and human good” to provide “critical illumination, personal example, and vocational leadership.” This has been the historic witness of Christians concerned about government promoting good and restraining evil.

Jeremiah 29:7 says: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Referring to Babylon, the prophet recognized that secular government served a legitimate purpose in God’s plan for Israel. This is still true. Today, good governments promote literacy, advance just laws, provide religious liberty and allow churches to preach and teach. Good government can serve as a conduit for the furthering of the gospel and human flourishing.

Christian witness in the public square contributes transcendent values about moral and ethical issues. Christian withdrawal opens a moral vacuum susceptible to influences that pressure government to move outside the purview designated by God. Politics affects government, shapes society and influences culture. Because of what the Bible teaches and the inevitability of its effect on our culture, Christians must care about politics.

By / Jun 9

Dan Darling, vice president of communications at the ERLC, interviews Randy Alcorn about how the Bible informs our care for and value of animals.

Alcorn is an author and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.