Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Lee Camp’s Response to Rubel Shelly (Jan-Feb 2002)

Filed under: — @ 1:07 am and

by Lee Camp
January – February, 2002
(responding to Just War: Quandry of Christian Conscience)

This world, indeed, is not co-extensive with the kingdom of God. This fact points us precisely to our task as disciples: to live according to the reign of God in a rebellious world. The kingdom has not yet come in fullness; but it has begun. Until the consummation, our task is not to run a still-rebellious world, but to embody the kingdom order—which is not one of retributive justice, but of grace, forgiving as we have been forgiven.

The New Testament does not teach a normative distinction between a “personal” ethic and a “governmental” ethic. This distinction does have a long history in the Christian tradition (e.g., in Augustine and Luther), and in effect, sets aside the ethic of Jesus in order to maintain “justice.” In the New Testament, the primary ethical distinction is, instead, between “church” and “world.” “Church” follows Christ; “world” does not.

Romans 12 and 13 illustrate this point—twelve describes the church; thirteen describes God sovereignly using even emperors who have not accepted his lordship, just as he once used Assyria and Babylon. But just because Babylon was used by God to punish his people, God did not expect Israelites to adopt the ethic of the Babylonians. Instead, Israel was called again to do what God always called them to do—to live in trusting, covenant faithfulness.

If we take the entire story of Jesus as normative for Christian ethics, “Suffering Servanthood” cannot be equated with taking up arms for the cause of justice. Rubel is correct—Jesus is not calling us to a legalistic implementation of “turning the other cheek.” But Jesus is calling us to a radically different way of peacemaking. The cross, according to scripture, stands as God’s most powerful response to injustice and evil, even if it is “foolishness” to the world.New Wineskins

Lee Camp

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