The Church is in need of more teaching on what it means for believers to be agents of common grace who are committed to the welfare of their cities.
This calling is rooted in our identity as salt to the earth and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). It also has profound theological foundations on at least three levels of shared life between redeemed and unredeemed.
1. Common origin: God’s ownership and image as a universal human reality.
2. Common Concerns: stewardship of the earth as a shared dwelling place
3. Common Connections: accessible truth about God, moral order and transcendence.
This part of our mission is largely based on the universal human reality of the Imago Dei (the image of God).
It provides a case for believing that, “God has lawfully ordered his creation in a way that all human beings have some sort of cognitive access to that lawfulness” (Richard Mouw). Romans 2:15-16 appear to validate this cognitive access — even among those who don’t have access to Scripture.
The realm of common grace presupposes an ability to have rational conversations about a common good with fellow human beings.
In some political circumstances Christians must accept limitations and pursue other means of influence because they are not permitted to participate in choosing laws and policies.
But as long as we live in a system that allows us to sit at the table to seek the good that leads to laws and policies, why would we neglect such a privilege?
Are there social, cultural and political agents of change ordained by God for the common good? Yes. And these are His gifts of common grace. Parents and authorities are two of the primary examples (Ephesians 6:1; Romans 13:1-4).
Society benefits when parents are attentive and diligent; when laws and law enforcement are effective; when we have mentors to train us.
Wisdom calls on us to recognize that we can engage in truth-based dialogue and persuasion in settings like family, work, community and government without quoting biblical chapters and verses.
Explicit use of Scripture in dialogue on public policy will be more quickly dismissed when sensitivities are high regarding separation of Church and Sate.
We can confidently articulate a worldview that honors our Creator and Savior without verbalizing explicit references to the Bible. We can also hope for some of these truths to resonate with the general public.
Never forget that each person brings a worldview to discussions about moral and social issues. Many of our laws and policies reflect moral and worldview commitments.
What we need is more thoughtful creativity about the best ways to engage the public in serious dialogue and persuasive thinking on current social issues. Frankly, what I’m advocating will require a deep understanding of the unfolding narative of Scripture in shaping our worldview.
How could those who honor the Creator refuse to care about a common good for His creatures? How could we withdraw from the table of discussion where the policies and laws are formed that profoundly impact our neighbors?
Of course, all activity on this level can never displace the greater needs we have as human beings. The human need is far deeper than social or cultural change. Our nature itself must change.
We urgently need a change of being or ontological transformation. This change only comes through God’s gift of spiritual regeneration in the gospel. Rules and laws can be used to regulate behaviors but a change of being is nothing short of a creative act of God.
God said, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). We need a recreation or new creation by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) for the restoring of God’s image in us.