Social issues and the life of praise

20.04.2007 | Andrew Cameron | Briefing 062  



‘... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.’ [1 Peter 2:9]

Rather than thinking about a particular social issue in this briefing, we pause to consider—why bother at all? Why attempt to think Christianly about issues like euthanasia, pornography or gambling? Or poverty, hunger, or the environment? After all, it feels hard to bother sometimes. The evils in the world are just heartbreaking. We often feel helpless to stop any of them, clueless about where to begin, and hopeless about succeeding. Even if Christianity does helps with some social issue, we're not clear how to persuade an unbelieving world. In any case, most of us avoid the conflict that is inevitably involved. Christians also fret about whether it is simply a distraction to bother. Some have felt that social concern and involvement detracts from ‘declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ Indeed in comparison to the difficulties of social involvement, declaring those praises seems so much clearer, straightforward and doable.

But the Bible displays a joyful and easygoing cheerfulness about these matters. It does not share our sense of burden, and displays a ‘seamlessness’ between declaring praise and caring for others. We see this joy and ‘seamlessness’ in the biblical theme of doing good. That phrase can turn us off a bit (e.g. ‘do-gooders’); but in the Bible, to ‘do good’ is a joyful expression of freedom. Here is a brief glimpse:

A kind of freedom is also seen in the biblical theme of doing justice. Here is an even briefer glimpse:

Peter Kell, CEO of Anglicare Sydney, quotes Archbishop Howard Mowll's 1947 comment:

As Christians, we are pledged to the service of all those who are hungry, or destitute, or in need; we are pledged to the support of every movement for the removal of injustice and oppression. But we do not conceive these things as good in themselves, to be the whole of evangelism, since we are convinced that the source of the world's sorrow is spiritual and that its healing must be spiritual, through the entry of the risen Christ into every part of the living world.

While we await the Lord's return, we can love our neighbour without losing the centrality of the gospel. Pointing to Christ and helping others express the life of praise. We can respond even to difficult issues in praise of the one who creates and redeems the planet and its people.

For example, our response to something as sad as the Murray-Darling drought can be seen as the life of praise at work. Our prayers to God for rain are a form of praise to the God who sustains his world. We praise the One who loves drought-stricken rural neighbours better than we do, and his love for them gradually shapes our concern for them. Our initial attempts at wise uses of water, whether personal or communal, praise God for his goodness in giving water at all. Those who praise God need not be driven by fear of thirst or fear of rising prices.

But thinking Christianly about social issues is certainly hard. For Peter Kell, it is ‘complex’ and ‘difficult’ ‘to fully grasp and apply’ how both to save the lost and to serve those in need. It is hard to understand the facts and arguments surrounding an issue; and even when we do, our minds can be blinkered in ways that prevent us seeing a gospel-shaped solution to it. Given these difficulties and the others noted above, it may help firstly to know your freedoms:

Secondly, it may also help to pick a specialty. If some of us became ‘specialists’ on an issue, then over time, a variety of ‘specialists’ in various fields will grow. This concept is helpful in a number of ways.

The apostle Peter looks forward to an unbelieving world seeing our good deeds and eventually glorifying God [1 Peter 2:12]. It seems that praise declared and lived, cannot help but bring others to praise God too.

Sources/Further Reading:

Peter Kell, ‘Kell's Comments’, CARE magazine April 2007, p. 2.


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