Weekly Reflections: Theology of Social Responsibility

By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
www.nordis.net

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”— Luke 4,18-19

Faith and Ideology

Social responsibility is part of a Christian way of life. Our genuine involvement in social issues and concerns should be motivated by faith and not by ideology, although sometimes there is a very thin line between faith and ideology. Faith is sometimes used as an ideology. Besides, ideology is oftentimes given a very bad name.

Actually, each one of us has his own ideology, whether good or bad. Each one of us has his own ideals and principles to which we commit ourselves. What is more important is what kind of ideology do we have: Is it an ideology used for the good of people or is it an ideology used to oppress and exploit people? In any case, genuine involvement of Christians in social issues and concerns is one of the many concrete expressions of our faith.

I listed down at least five basic faith reasons why Christians should actively involve themselves in social issues and concerns.

Theological Reason

First of all, there is a theological reason. This is our faith in God. We believe that God created the heavens and the earth (cf.Gen.1:1). This means God is the Lord of all. The number one commandment God gave to Moses for the Israelites to obey says: “I am the Lord your God…Worship no other god but me” (Ex. 20:2-3).

The kings of ancient Israel were not supposed to be absolute rulers, but rather servants of God. They should have a copy of the book of God’s laws, and read it throughout their life, so that they will learn to honor the Lord and to obey faithfully everything that is commanded in it. This will also keep them from thinking that they are better than their fellow Israelites. They have to lead the people in following the statutes of God (cf. Dt. 17:14-20).

Hence, any ruler or leader who claims absolute loyalty and obedience reserved only to God is considered a form of political idolatry. And so Christians throughout the ages have always been suspicious of such kind of leadership. As the popular saying goes, “Absolute power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is the reason why our church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, stood up against authoritarian rule, especially during the dark years of Martial Law.

Anthropological Reason

Secondly, there is an anthropological reason. This is our faith in the human being. We do believe God is a God of freedom and salvation. God created human beings in freedom and in order to live in freedom. God created human beings in His own image with honor and dignity to be good and responsible stewards of His creation (cf. Gen. 1:26-27).

Thus, when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God said to Moses, “I have seen the afflictions of my people…I have heard their cries…And, therefore, I have come down to deliver them from their slave drivers…and to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey”(Ex.3:7-8).

Anyone who takes seriously his faith in this kind of God could not withstand seeing people being oppressed and exploited. He would surely do something to set them free in obedience to God. That’s why our church had set up human rights programs dealing with the victims of human rights violations in our country and elsewhere, promoting the sanctity of human life as ordained by God.

Christological Reason

Thirdly, there is a Christological reason. This is our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. We believe God came to us in Jesus of Nazareth. Through his life and ministry, Jesus had shown to us the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn. 14:6).

Like Prophet Isaiah, he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people”(Lk.4:18-19; Isa. 61:1-2). “The Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people” (Mk.10:45). “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” (Jn.10:10).

These are various versions of the mission statements of Jesus that he himself fulfilled in words and in deeds by showing love and compassion for the poor, by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, forgiving the sinners, and by challenging the hypocrisies of the powers-that-be. These naturally led him to the cruel cross.

To believe in Jesus Christ and to accept him as our Lord and Savior is to live exactly the same kind of life that he had lived. As concrete expressions of this faith, our church had established and maintained schools and hospitals as well as development programs and projects for the poor and indigenous peoples in our country.

Ecclesiological Reason

Fourthly, there is an ecclesiological reason. This is our faith in the church. The church is the resurrected body of Christ, the community of believers called upon to continue the mission of God in the world by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The church is God’s instrument in establishing His Kingdom on earth. As God’s instrument, the church should manifest in itself what the Kingdom of God is all about. God’s Kingdom is basically a kingdom of peace based on justice and righteousness.

When the Holy Spirit came upon the Early Christians, they were empowered to live in loving fellowship with one another. They shared each other’s resources and belongings, and no one among them was in need (cf. Acts 4:32-35). This is the model of a community that the church would like to live by and to share with the world as an expression of its social responsibility. This is a community wherein no one is in need. This is a society that tries to approximate what the Kingdom of God is all about.

That’s why the church has to put all human institutions, including governments and the church itself, under the judgment and grace of the Kingdom of God. This is the reason why our church leaders, like our bishops, would issue from time to time pastoral letters and statements on particular social issues and concerns that would affect not only the church but also our country as a whole.

Eschatological Reason

And finally, there is an eschatological reason. This is the faith that history will come to an end, and that God will create a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Rev. 21). This is the faith that God will finally sit on His Judgment Throne in the fullness of time, and that all of us will give an account of what we have done before God, whether good or bad, even the things done in secret (cf. Eccl. 12:14). This is the faith that our life on earth is too short, and that our present action has something to do with our future destiny.

On that Judgment Day, there is one thing that the Final Judge will say to us, “Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.”(cf. Mt. 25:40). We live a life of loving concern for the least of our brothers and sisters in our communities, because this is what God would expect us to do with the life God has given us.

When God confronted Cain why he killed his own brother Abel, he answered with a rhetorical question, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” (Gen.4:9). In God’s Final Judgment, we would come to realize that we are indeed our brothers’ or sister’s keeper.

Salvation by Grace through Faith

These are some of the reasons why Christians should be actively involved in social issues and concerns – it is because of their faith.

One of the most basic Protestant evangelical affirmations is that we are saved by grace through faith. Indeed, we are living in critical times. Our country is in crisis. And it is my firm conviction that our nation could be saved, could be redeemed not by the barrel of the gun, but by grace through faith – the grace of God that passes all human understanding, the kind of faith that I’m trying to expound very briefly.

We must love our country. This is the only country God has given us. This is the country where God called us to do His mission in the world. Deep within our hearts, I know that we have the same dreams for our country – we all dream that our country will indeed become genuinely peaceful, humane, and prosperous.

Perhaps, what we only need to do is to open up our hearts and minds to God and to each other, to listen, understand, and respect each other, and work together for a nation that is genuinely peaceful, prosperous, humane, just and truly free. And may God grant us the grace and the courage to do this very urgent task. God bless. Amen. # nordis.net

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