Monday, August 19, 2013

The Trayvon Martin Controversy and Biblical Justice: Part 4: The Church's Role

"Constantine Slaying the Lion."
Much of the American church has forsaken the idea of slaying lions via
cultural transformation that characterized Constantine's day.  During his
reign as the first Christian emperor, Constantine implemented biblical law,
and the church was a light to the world by using its courts to
administer justice when the pagan civil courts broke down.

by Steve C. Halbrook
posts in this series (part 1part 2part 3, part 4)

We conclude this series on the Trayvon Martin controversy and biblical justice by covering the church's role in opposing the injustice of our times.

How the Church can Oppose the Injustice of our Times

Sadly, the American church in general has embraced to one degree or another a retreatist approach to cultureand thus at best has minimized its mandate to comprehensively disciple the nation (Matthew 28:18-20). This is evident in the widespread absence of speaking to political matters from the pulpit.

The church needs to jettison this erroneous view of Christianity and understand that Jesus is Lord of allpolitics included. It must speak out against the injustice of our timesincluding such matters as America’s unjust treatment of George Zimmerman. Ephesians 5:11 states, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (emphasis mine). 

Justice is a high priority for God; it therefore should be a high priority for the church:
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. (Isaiah 59:14, 15)
The Bible indicts those who do not champion God's justice:
None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. (Isaiah 59:4 KJV)
Non-Christians are characterized by injustice. Christians are to set the standard of justice for non-Christians by being a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). This entails, as we've noted, speaking out against injustice. And to do this, the church must champion the law of Godthe sole standard of justice. Why, for instance, are allegations that Zimmerman is guilty unjust? Because such allegations do not assume biblical due process (which we've discussed in this series). But the church can't expect the pagans to understand justice if the church itself does not teachor even understandGod's law.

In addition, Christians can be a light to the world by example. Consider church courts, which should be morally superior to non-Christian courts: "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" (1 Corinthians 6:1, KJV). 

Unfortunately, some church courts themselves are characterized by incompetence and abuse of power, and thus aren't much better than our civil courts (which are mostly controlled by pagans). But unless we clean up our own act, then how can we expect pagan courts to be just? If we expect people (such as Zimmerman) to not be tried by the civil courts unjustlye. g., not to be condemned on the basis of slander and uncharitable speculationthen we likewise must strive to keep the church courts from trying their own people unjustly.

During Constantine’s daywhen pagandom was transitioning to Christendomchurch courts were reputed for justice. Since the pagan civil court system was in moral disarray, and since citizens could get more justice through the church courts, Constantine allowed citizens to seek justice through the latter to curtail
the wicked seeds of litigation, so that wretched men, entangled in long and nearly endless snares of legal procedure, may have a timely release from mischievous pleadings or absurd love of disputation.[1]
Thus while the pagan court system was collapsing, the church courts were strong enough to add stability and justice in their stead. R. J. Rushdoony observes that
When Rome fell, for six centuries, the only courts of Europe were the church courts for arbitration. When Rome was gone, the government, the state was gone, but Europe had justice because the church provided it.[2]
Considering the increasing injustice in our own civil courts, there may come a time again (maybe even soon) when churches will once again be looked to for justiceeither by their example and teaching, or even for arbitration at some level in the stead of morally collapsed civil courts. Then maybe justice can be reasonably restored to the land.

Without biblical justice, people are at the mercy of  fallen man's perverse
notions of justice. The Trayvon Martin controversy is one such example,
which has seen the verbal lynching of George Zimmerman--and even
calls for his murder.

Series Conclusion

The Trayvon Martin controversy is symptomatic of a dire spiritual problem with 
America. For in this controversy, we have seen the eagerness of a great many Americans to malign a man as a murderer without proof. 
And some have even gone so far as to incite his murder. The book of Romans aptly describes such people (in light of what we've just said, note especially the bolded words): 
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood;  in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” (Romans 3:13-17)
These are all indications of a society that hates God—one with “no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18b). For the sake of Zimmerman and others that stand to be victimized by our civil government and/or lawless slanderers and vigilantes, we need a return to biblical justice. 

And to return to biblical justice, the church needs to fulfill its mandate to apply biblical justiceand to teach others to do the same. It needs to engage culture again, and be a light to the world. Most of all, it needs to aggressively teach the Gospel so that, by God's grace, people will be convertedand have hearts willing to be just.


[1] Emperor Constantine Augustus to Ablabius, Praetorian Prefect. Cited in H. A. Drake, Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 487.
[2] R.J. Rushdoony, God’s Law and Society: Foundations in Christian Reconstruction, Jay Rogers, ed. (Melbourne, FL: J.C. Rogers Production, 2006), 24.  Retrieved August 19, 2013, from   

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