My practical emphasis focused on our calling to be agents of common grace who are committed to the welfare of the city of our exile. The basis for this model is the word given to God’s people in Jeremiah 29:40-7.
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”
The callings and concerns of seeking common good with and for those who are unredeemed have profound theological foundations on at least three levels of shared life. Everyone in the world can come together around three areas of commonality.
- Common origin and image: God’s ownership and God’s image as a universal reality.
- Common Concerns: stewardship of the earth as our shared dwelling place.
- Common Connections: Accessibility to truth about God, moral order and transcendence.
Human flourishing and the common good are most significantly based on the image of God in humans. The universal reality of the image of God is part of the 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 lawfulnes” (Richard Mouw). Romans 2:15-16 appear to validate this cognitive access — even among those who don’t have access to Scripture.
The reality and realm of common grace presuppose an ability to have rational conversations about a common good between redeemed and unredeemed. Obviously in some political circumstances, Christians must accept limitations and seek 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 a seat at the table, why shouldn’t we join in seeking the good that leads to laws and policies? Why would we neglect such a privilege?
Dialogue and persuasion in these settings does not require quotation of biblical chapters and verses. Yet this does not mean that truth-based input is not possible. We can articulate a worldview that honors our Creator without verbalizing references to the Bible. We can also hope for some of these truths to resonate with a general population.
There are many ways to have conversations and we need more thoughtful creativity about the best ways to engage others in these contexts. More importantly, all that we have to say should be deeply rooted in the two great commands to love God and neighbor.
How could those who honor the Creator and care about a common good for His creatures withdraw from the table where policies and laws are formed that profoundly effect the people?