Yesterday we examined the wholeness of the Gospel that fully integrates the saving Gospel and the social Gospel. The Gospel is one, a unified whole like a precious two-sided coin:
- On the one side, how could we ever receive saving grace without our social behavior measurably changing? There is no "new birth" if there is no "new behavior." Jesus said, "By their fruit you will know them." Still true.
- On the other side, how can we work effectively for grace-filled community improvement unless we and other people are transformed personally, too? All lasting behavioral changes require internal transformation. Jesus said, "It is most important to clean the inside of the cup and of the dish." Still true, too.
To help restore this elemental marriage of saving Gospel and social Gospel, we introduced the Eight Biblical Principles of Gospel Faithfulness and yesterday described two of those principles – religious freedom and creation care. Here are the remaining six:
3. Protect the sanctity of human life. Since God created people in his image, all humans – including the pre-born – share in that divine sanctity. God's calling and care of persons covers every stage of human life. Infanticide, abortion-on-demand, euthanasia, and unethical human experimentation and other senseless human death and damage violate this God-given sanctity of all human life. Where such death-oriented practices gain social approval and become legitimized in law, they undermine the legal and cultural protections that society should provide for every vulnerable person. Human dignity is indivisible so that a threat to the aged, to the very young, to the unborn, and to those with disabilities or diseases is a true threat to all.
4. Pursue reconciliation. The Bible teaches the precious goal of reconciliation of all people to God and of all people to one another. The Lord himself is the Great Reconciler who leads us to serve him and one another in active reconciliation. He teaches people always to reconcile – whether they would be the aggressor or the aggrieved. Reconciliation includes the works of divinely given peace, shalom, within all relationships; reconciliation between God and humans through his salvation and sanctification; reconciliation among denominations; reconciliation between races; reconciliation within factions of countries; reconciliation between countries. Family reconciliation would be a great starting point for everyone. The God of shalom wants an active culture of peace as a ruling principle personally and in homes, churches, communities, cities, states, nations and between nations.
5. Nurture family life and protect children. From Genesis onward, the Bible tells us that the family is central to God's vision for human society. Marriage is an enduring covenant between one man, one woman, and One God – and it is the primary Biblical model for relationships. Whether we are married or single, it is in the family that (a) we learn mutual submission and responsibility, (b) we learn to live in an ordered society with complementary roles, (c) we learn to love and to trust, (d) we learn both justice and mercy, and (e) we learn even to deny ourselves for the well-being of others. Consequently, healthy families are at the heart of both the personal flourishing and the wholesome organic functioning of any society.
6. Seek compassion and justice, especially for the poor and vulnerable. In the Scriptures we are taught to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves – and that anyone in need is our "neighbor." Because all people are created in the image of God, we owe one another true help in times of need. God's prophets call his people to create societies that are compassionate, just, and righteous. The prophetic teachings and good free-market economics insist on both a fair legal system (which does not favor either the rich or the poor) and a fair economic system (which does not tolerate perpetual poverty). God identifies with the poor and vulnerable, and he tells us that those who "are kind to the poor lend to the Lord," while "those who oppress the poor show contempt for their own Maker." The vulnerable include women, children, the aged, persons with disabilities, uneducated, immigrants, refugees, victims of persecution, prisoners, formerly incarcerated, and others. The Lord evaluates our behavior especially by how we treat the people at the "bottom"-the people whom he calls "the least."
7. Safeguard human rights. Because God created human beings in his image, all people are endowed with inalienable rights and responsibility – especially those protecting life and liberty. In order to live these rights and to carry out these responsibilities, human beings need the freedom to form associations, formulate and express beliefs freely, and act on conscientiously held commitments. Governments should be constitutionally obligated to protect the basic human rights – and then do it. Houses of worship have a special responsibility to model human rights, including redemptive gender and race relations. To help remedy the terrible effects of rampant bias around the world, we all should support and join efforts that truly foster universal God-given human dignity, rights, respect and responsibility.
8. Resolve conflicts and seek peace. Biblical leaders looked forward to the time when God's reign on earth will bring about just and peaceful societies, without unjust rulers or any oppression. A peaceful settling of disputes is a divine mission. Any military force must be guided by the Biblical "just-war" principles to respect all people and to restrain unnecessary force. In an age of potential nuclear and biological terrorism, such principles are now more important than ever. All should work to reduce conflict (a) by promoting community and international understanding, (b) by engaging in non-violent conflict resolution at every level, and (c) by creating cultures of peace in churches, communities, countries, and in international relationships.
CONCLUSION: Tragically, on a good day, Republican leaders might enthusiastically endorse 4-5 of these Eight Principles, and Democratic leaders might endorse 4-5 of these principles, too, but mostly different ones. However, the Lord endorses all of these principles and instructs us in them, through his Word. We can examine each of the Eight Principles in greater detail later.
For now, we the people committed to Jesus' Gospel can help keep our leaders' "feet to the fire" on all of these Eight Biblical Principles of Gospel Faithfulness – regardless of political affiliation, as I have expressed to leaders of both major political parties. We are to be first of all the followers of the Lord Jesus – including "seeking his Kingdom first."
And let us keep in mind that Jesus is still our Wonderful Counselor in all that we think and do. As we call off the Gospel "divorce," we especially need the Wonderful Counselor to help restore his whole Gospel "marriage" back together – vibrantly and joyfully.
In the final analysis, are we ready to call on the Wonderful Counselor, and when shall we celebrate the restored Gospel marriage? Our real-time answers will have immediate and long-term consequences. May we the Gospel people have the courage to act in good faith as we grapple with the implications of the Eight Biblical Principles of Gospel Faithfulness – and rise above the petty partisanship, now especially in this election year.