Monday, August 25, 2014

Romans 12 and Public Policy

What would happen if domestic and foreign policies were modeled after a portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans?  What would happen if we modeled our personal lives after it?

Rom. 12:14   Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

What would the last few decades have looked like if we had opened up trade and established full diplomatic relations with Cuba, as we have, for instance, with Viet Nam?  What if Israel and Egypt had, in the face of Hamas’s rockets, jointly invaded Gaza with new roads, housing, schools, and hospitals?  The U.S. did something like that after WWII when it bent to the task of rebuilding Europe and Japan.  Not, I might add, without furious objection from powerful voices intent on revenge. 

“Oh, get real,” you say, “that only worked because they had been beaten into unconditional surrender.”  Perhaps.  The problem, as I see it, is that our first and preferred option is always in the direction of coercion, violence, and retribution.  Be first or be a loser.  Be the greatest or be a nothing.  Be the toughest or be a doormat.  Can these be the only alternatives?  At least we might give the Romans 12 approach a try.  If Paul’s letter is to be received as Holy Scripture, then it must be taken seriously.  Even if not, it’s reasonable to assume that Paul had learned something important about what kind of life leads in a godly direction, and Romans 12 illuminates that path.

“Well,” you say, “what good did it do him?  He was beheaded.  Didn’t work out so well for him, did it!”  True enough, but two thousand years later we are still working on probing the intersection between Paul, God, and truth.  Paul has endured while Nero, under whom he was beheaded, is remembered mostly as a tragic historical joke.  So why is it that nations, a large number of Christians, persons following other religions, and sometimes the Church itself, choose to follow Nero, doing so with confidence?

It baffles me.

1 comment:

Geezer Dude said...

I've often wondered, as you do, what would happen if we (or Israel) "waged peace" with even a significant fraction of the scale to which we "wage war."

J. D.