By Martin Shupack,
reprinted from the Jan-Feb 1999 issue of the Washington Memo
Members of the MCC Washington Office staff view their advocacy work as ministry rooted in the life, teachings and lordship of Jesus Christ. Scripture affirms that all “thrones, powers, rulers and authorities” have been created by and for Christ (Colossians 1:16). Under Jesus’ providential rule, government is “God’s servant” to restrain evil and benefit those who do right (Romans 13; 1 Pet. 2). Governing authorities are to “rescue the weak and destitute” (Psalm 82:4) and “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9). The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective affirms that the “governing authorities of the world have been instituted by God . . . as servants . . . called to act justly and provide order.”
Yet, government too often protects evildoers and harms the just. Thus, Jesus told his disciples not to be like the rulers who “lord it over” others and act as “tyrants” (Mark 10:42). Revelation 13 is often cited as an example of government at its worst. The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective points out that “nations tend to demand total allegiance. They then become idolatrous and rebellious against the will of God.”
Because governing authorities frequently misuse their power, God uses people of faith to confront and call authorities to fulfill their intended purpose. For example, Esther risked her life to plead the case of her people before King Ahasuerus (Esther 4-8). The people appealed to Nehemiah, the governor, about unjust economic practices of the ruling class (Nehemiah 5). The apostle Paul spoke to Felix about “justice, self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:24-25).
We witness to the way of Christ by:
- Praying for and showing respect to governing authorities. Our advocacy must express a spirit of concern for persons in authority and a biblical understanding of government’s role.
- Being the church. Advocacy has integrity as it is rooted in the practice, teachings and mission of the church. For example, advocacy on behalf of policies that empower people living in poverty is given moral force by the witness of Mennonites and Brethren in Christ who are living and serving in marginalized communities in the United States and around the world.
- Calling governing authorities to act justly for all people. While God’s kingdom will not be legislated into being, governing authorities can develop laws and policies that–as the Confession declares–“move toward justice, peace and compassion for all people.”
By raising our voices on behalf of those who are struggling to overcome poverty, oppression and violence, advocacy responds faithfully to Jesus’ command to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”