Redeeming Grace

Over the past fifteen years or so, the Evangelical churches in the U.S. have been waking up to the fact that for far too long its gospel has been far too small. Consumed with that part of its identity that demands personal encounter with and rescue by God, it had forgotten that it was supposed to be an alternative to the inward-turned fundamentalism of the early 20th century. It had forgotten that it was created to be a world-engaging, world-transforming presence–ambassadors for the Christ who claims every corner of this world for his own.

As evangelicals experience a resurgence in this core part of our identity, and as we get more creative with how we express what the gospel itself is, we can only hope that our agitation for laws that express the life-giving love of God will take on new expression.

We have always known that our God is a God of life, and so we stood with the unborn children whose lives would be terminated by abortion, and declared ourselves “pro-life.” In this, in fact, we stood with the feminists who saw early on that abortion was a way of invading their bodies to keep them producing for the labor force.

But we have not been so quick to recognize that the redeeming grace of God makes such a broad claim on restoring the cosmos that we should renounce the life-taking powers of capital punishment and war.

The Troy Davis case created a world-wide astonishment at the barbarity of the U.S.’s criminal “justice” system–and I was heartened to see my Twitter stream abuzz with the protestations of Christians about this taking of life. We need to be consistently pro-life–even when that means that someone is not “innocent.” If we are to be agents and extensions of the life-giving gospel that was given to us, we need to reimagine what justice looks like under the kingdom umbrella of the grace of God.

Will evangelicals become consistently pro-life, demanding not only that the infinite possibilities of life be opened up to the unborn child, but also that the more finite yet expansive possibilities of life be opened up to “the vilest offender”?

As important as our voice has become in politics, especially the politics of the political right, we should be using those powers to influence law that will reflect our call to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do unto others as we would want done to us.

By the same measures that I would oppose abortion, by the same measures that I would provide greater support to women who have unplanned pregnancies, by the same measures that I would demand fair trails, by the same measure that I would provide civil marriage equality, by the same measures that I would resist the call to instigate war–by that same measure of loving my neighbor as myself precisely by doing unto my neighbor what I would have done to me–by the same measure we should demand an end to death.

This is what faith looks like in the public sphere: not exerting our powers to the point of death, but trusting in the God who gives life to the dead–even the dead that is the murderer’s still-beating heart (if, in fact, he even be a murderer).

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