Monday, July 09, 2007

Understanding the law?

This time last year I got an email asking me to speak to a group of recent graduates on our discipleship training programme. The topic was Understanding the Law. What was meant by that was the use of the Mosaic Law for Christians. But there is another question I could have taken it to be asking me to speak on. That question is about how Christians relate to the law of the land, how to we relate to authorities.

I think it's a pressing question for the church in the UK. Historically our nation was run on the assumption of Christianity being valid and the default system of belief. Despite the last census figures that is simply not the case anymore. Christians are deemed wierd and suddenly we find ourselves being a minority group. What are we supposed to do in that situation? How do we relate to moving from the majority to the minority? The instinct is to fight for our rights. Perhaps that is right. Though, I wonder whether we're so keen to fight for others rights as we are to contend for our own.

What's the state of play. Probably Christians are about as law abiding as the rest of the general population. Christians probably have about as man points on their driving licenses, breach copyright law as much as anyone else, vote as little as everyone else and pay our taxes. However, when we think about Christians and the law what more quickly comes to mind today are court cases. Christians seeking legal support to wear crucifixes at work, silver rings in school and for Christian mission groups to be led by Christians. Should we be going to court? If we should are these valid causes? And if we are to fight for our rights are their other causes we should champion that don't directly benefit us? Are we concerned for ourselves, or for justice more broadly?

Thankfully, in the midst of all these questions the New Testament speaks quite a bit about Christians and the law. Over a series of posts I want to explore some of these. That'll take me into the gospels and famous words about giving to Caesar what its Caesars, into Paul's letters about praying for authorities, the role and responsibility of authorities, submitting to them, and Peter's words about silencing your critics by living good lives in society and we can take in Luke's record of apostles being arrested and Paul's appeal to his Roman rights. Plenty to think about. This is very much a work in progress.


  1. oooh - I'm looking forward to these posts. Preparing a series about church history I'm also encouraged to see how successful the Early Church was (say, up to Constantine) by being minority people - they thrived on it in fact....!

  2. I think I need some church history perspectives. Do comment/blog.