Evangelicals are sometimes criticized for a lack of involvement in human-rights issues. Is criticism justified?

Yes. On the one hand, some evangelicals contend that believers should not be concerned for human rights—especially not their own—but only for the gospel of personal regeneration. But the God of the Bible says much about the abuse of rights, especially those of the impoverished and helpless. The apostle Paul did not hesitate to appeal to Caesar when regional authorities withheld his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:11).

On the other hand, some evangelicals have taken concern for their rights too far. In their quite proper concern to defend fellow believers, they have reduced human rights to narrow items of their own cause. Many perceived the early efforts of the Moral Majority in that light. The result of such narrow focus is that others readily conclude that evangelicals are interested only in defending their issues, not in a broad-based commitment to the liberties of all.

Of course, Christians should be prepared to suffer at the hands of the wicked. Instead of promoting revolution, they should be ready to face punishment—as did the Hebrew prophets—because of their protest against injustice.

But whatever the consequences, they should set the pace in condemning injustice. God himself deplores the injustices of individuals and of society. It is interesting to note that the words justice and righteousness in our Old Testament often come from the same Hebrew word; each goes hand in hand with the other.

How does concern for human rights fit in with the church’s mission in the world?

Evangelicals should be devoted to “the whole counsel of God,” which acknowledges that God wills both justice and the repentance and spiritual ...

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