Recently I have been reading the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.
I’ve been very impressed with the way that Bonhoeffer acted as a Christian during the Nazi period, in which EVERY Christian was faced with an intense ethical dilemma because of the evils acted out by the Nazi regime.
This Sunday at White Fields I taught 1 Samuel 11. In that chapter the town of Jabesh-Gilead is attacked by the Ammonites, and Saul, hearing the news, sends a message to all the men of Israel that they need to come to the defense of the people of Jabesh-Gilead, or else.
This was a time in Israel, when it would have been wrong to do nothing.
Surely, Bonhoeffer lived in such a time as well – when it would have been ethically wrong to do nothing in the face of the evils of the Nazi regime. If being a Christian is all about being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), and as those who are part of the body of Christ, God would have us do His work, being his mouthpiece, his hands and his feet – there are great implications, as Bonhoeffer knew better any, for us as Christians and how we act and respond in the face of evil, injustice and other things which God is opposed to.
Bonhoeffer famously said:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In light of this, I can’t help but wonder what the great issues of our day, and our time and place are. What are the things that God would have us as Christians stand up for and fight against in this day?
It says there in 1 Samuel 11, that when Saul heard about how the people of Jabesh-Gilead were being mistreated, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he became angry. That anger moved him to action.
I wonder what the issues are in our day that we should rightly be upset about, and that God would move us to righteous action for.
Yesterday, Eric Metaxas, the author of that biography about Bonhoeffer wrote this on Twitter:
Do you agree? If so, what are the issues in our day that we should be pushing hard about?
To add a counterpoint, this is what Timothy Keller posted on Facebook today:
Jesus didn’t come to solve the economic, political, and social problems of the world. He came to forgive our sins. – Timothy Keller
It is true that Jesus did come to redeem the world, not by fixing the social problems of the day, or by driving out the Romans, but by dying on the cross for our sins.
What does this mean for us as Christians? Should our focus be other-worldly, i.e. saving people from this world unto the next life and the world which is to come, since this world will soon pass away — or, since eternal life starts now (John 17:3), should we be seeking to do the will of God here and now by coming against evil social structures and injustice, working to put an end to human suffering? Certainly this was a major theme of the Old Testament, but not something addressed much in the New Testament.
Are these two concepts at odds with each other, or can they be reconciled?
I don’t believe they are at odds – I think there is a healthy “both this and that” approach, but finding that balance of focus and knowing which hills God would have us fight on is something for which we must seek wisdom and guidance from God.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment below.