Christianity, of all worldviews, strikes just the right balance concerning the existence of good and evil and our moral responses to both realities. Goodness is based on the character of God and has been conferred to a good creation (Gen. 1). Evil stems from the rebellion of the creature against its Creator (Gen. 3); yet it will not outwit or overwhelm God’s purposes (Rom. 8:18–26). Moreover, evil has been conquered and good vindicated through the achievements of Christ. The Apostle Paul proclaims: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:48).
God’s kingdom will expand throughout history until Jesus consummates it at his second coming. Therefore, we do good works with hope. Our task is as large as the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). “Discipling the nations” means taking the whole Bible to the whole world, teaching its principles, and putting them into effect. Where do we start?
Christians are called to explain, proclaim, and defend the gospel through the Spirit’s power (1 Pet. 3:15–16; Acts 1:8). The Great Commission is more than evangelism. It includes manifesting God’s shalom—a Hebrew term meaning a state of divine peace, blessing, and justice. Shalom was undone through the fall, but is being restored as the kingdom advances. Shalom will be restored fully in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21—22).
Micah summarizes this task of bringing shalom:
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).
We must never sacrifice character for activism. We must be humble and merciful, acting justly according to God’s standards, which were summarized by Jesus as loving God with all our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–39).
Scripture places emphasis on acting justly toward the forgotten, oppressed, and marginalized. These are referred to as “widows and orphans,” but the category includes all who lack proper power and influence. In his parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus commends those who served “the least of these”— those imprisoned and without the essentials of life (Matt. 25:31–46).
Who are the “least of these” today? There are many. Since our time and talents are limited, we need to set priorities in light of opportunities. First, we must consider matters of life and death, since God forbids murder, which is killing God in effigy (Gen. 9:6). Who are the murder victims in America today? First on the list is the unborn. Abortion on demand has opened the floodgates for the deaths of over one million unborn humans a year since 1973. Red and yellow, black and white, they are legally worthless in our sight. Endangered animal species have more protection than human beings in the womb.
“The least of these” is a large category. We should help prisoners,1 the poor (here and abroad),2 and those discriminated against (such as the “untouchables” of India).3 We should support practices that manifest God’s shalom across all of life. Yet if we dismiss the abortion carnage in our midst, we are doing no less than covering our ears to the blood that is calling out from the ground (Gen. 4:10).
Abortion should be addressed on both the supply and the demand sides. Reforming our laws to protect the unborn would diminish the supply of abortions.4 The abortion demand side must be dealt with through preaching, teaching, writing, and counseling, so that fewer women abort. Many churches dedicate a sermon to this topic on Sanctity of Life Sunday, held near the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade (January 22). We must also support women with unplanned pregnancies financially and spiritually, as well as volunteering at, and contributing to, pro-life organizations. In this, and in all shalom-worthy projects, our “labor is not in vain.”
Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and became pro-life thirty years ago through the teachings of Francis Schaeffer.
1 Prison Fellowship: http://www.prisonfellowship.org
2 Food for the Hungry: http://www.fh.org.
3 The Dalit Freedom Network: http://www.dalitnetwork.org.
4 Probably the best way to stay abreast of these issues is to consult National Right to Life: http://www.nrlc.org.