Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Cost of Discipleship talks about the Meek inheriting the earth from Matthew 5:5. on page 109 he writes: “They will not go to law to defend their rights, or make a scene when they suffer injustice, nor do they insist on their legal rights. They are determined to leave their rights to God alone. — non cupidi vindictae, as the ancient church paraphrased it. Their right is in the will of their Lord– that and no more. They show by every word and gesture that they do not belong to this earth. Leave heaven to them, says the world in its pity, that is where they belong.” there is a footnote that says, “Emperor Julian wrote mockingly in a letter (No. 43) that he only confiscated the property of Christians so as to make them poor enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What is the proper response for Christians when we do have a voice in the government and our Christian rights are violated?
What an interesting question. Certainly, I think that it is our responsibility as Christians to defend the rights and lives of others when we have a voice in government. I believe that Bonhoeffer himself agreed with that since he was willing to return to Germany from the U.S. in order to encourage Christians to become active in defending the cause of the Jews and other people who were being persecuted by the Nazi political powers. And I think that as Christians, we are called to seek justice when there is injustice. But what injustices should compel us to seek political action? Are we called only to seek justice for those who are being marginalized and persecuted while not seeking justice for ourselves? Where does the effort to seek justice lose its purpose and become only a political campaign or cause? Is it possible to defend against injustice without losing sight that our battle is not against flesh and blood but instead against the principalities of the devil?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I am just pondering. Truly, my thoughts are that our motivation should always be to seek justice for the sake of bringing relief to the oppressed and marginalized, and to be the voice for those who are being persecuted. These actions should always be out of an expression of Christ’s love and never out of hatred or animosity toward one people group or political party. And I think that, above all, as Christians we must never seek justice just for Christianity’s sake. What I mean is, we should never be willing to become political simply because we want to be allowed to pray in schools or to post the ten commandments on our courtroom walls (these are just two examples). We should never be willing to seek justice simply so that we can be comfortable and escape the persecution that comes from being known as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Instead, we should use our efforts in the political arena to defend and protect those, as I said before, who are oppressed, marginalized or persecuted, even if it means that our choice to defend marks us as Christians and sets us up for persecution.
Thanks Jody for such great questions and comments.
Not sure what the phrase “Christian rights” means or is, one thing is definite is that as Christians we are to obey the law which can become very hard to do, using Germany as an example. Hitler got where he was because he very silently made and changed the laws to fit where he wanted Germany to go, which was to have power and rule the world. I think our main goal as a Christian is to obey Gods laws first and leave the end results to God Himself. Our trust must be in Him, not in rulers or governments. As the Bible says, we are “salt” and “light”, but if we’re not obedient to the Lord and kind of pick and choose what we want to obey and slide over what we choose not to obey, our light becomes very dim and our saltiness with little effect. #1–love the Lord God with all your heart,soul ,mind and strength and #2–love your neighbor as yourself.[my thoughts]
thanks Cam, I really appreciate your thoughts.