Thabiti Anyabwile: Preach Justice as ‘The Good Life’

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Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor of Anacostia River Church in Southeast Washington, D.C., visits Southeastern Seminary as a part of the Adams Lecture Series. He discusses how God shows his holiness in his acts of justice on behalf of the poor, oppressed and needy, and how evangelical pastors must emphasize God’s justice in their preaching.

Watch the video above, or read key excerpts below (edited for clarity):

Christianity is more than a decision; it is in fact a life.

On the necessity of preaching justice as we preach God’s word.

“Beloved, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that we live in perilous times. Now the truth is we’ve always lived in perilous times. There’s no generation that’s lived without war somewhere on the earth. Hunger and disease is always prowling around humanity. The treachery of wicked men in power has continued…. A fallen world is a perilous place, beloved. We are, as our Lord put it, like sheep sent to slaughter.

“The question is: Do we know how to live in such a world? What must God’s people think and do in order to not only survive but also to thrive in this world? Is there a good life in the midst of a bad world? If so, what does that life require of us?

“I’m going to argue in this first talk that the good life which God calls us to through faith in Christ actually has a lot to do and say about justice and the pursuit of justice and a just character. And one of the places you can actually go in the Bible to see the good life unpacked for us over and over again is in the wisdom literature. And here in the book of Proverbs that’s precisely what we’re going to see.

“In so many ways the good life is illustrated for us — and in some ways distinguished from the bad life, if you will. And we’re going to hear a call to embrace that life which is good, which leads to flourishing, to live in accords with the requirements of that life. So I’m going to ask and answer four questions here:

  1. What is the good life?
  2. What does, according to Proverbs, the good life have to do with justice?
  3. What does the good life demand that we do in pursuit of justice?
  4. Why don’t we hear the Bible telling us these things more frequently?”

On the necessity of preaching ethics.

“Christianity is more than a decision; it is in fact a life. I fear that much of our preaching of the gospel has rightly aimed at bringing people across the line, to turn from sin and to place their faith in Christ. But [we often] stop there — without also explaining that you’re now in a kingdom with a king whose rule you live under, who circumscribes and determines your life, and has many moral and ethical requirements of you. Not for your salvation, but from your salvation.

“When we fail to do that, inevitably things will boil down to a matter of personal preferences. And the good life becomes little more than a baptized version of the American dream. So no wonder this sounds alien to us, because what we’ve been imbibing is this notion that Jesus makes me a better person and kind of baptizes all the things I want to do anyway, rather than Jesus calls me to be a kind of person, who having been baptized, enters under his yoke and does the things he wants me to do.”

Satan doesn’t care who he encaptures us with; he only cares that we’re captured.

How politics captures us.

“As Evangelical preachers and Christians, I am afraid that we may have all but lost any categories for actual moral uprightness, integrity, equity, righteousness and justice. Those things are small in our conception of what it means to be a person of faith. And beloved, we don’t have to look any farther than the evangelical attachment to our current President to see it. The willingness of some evangelical Christians to support without qualification, justify in every circumstance, and defend without flinching this man despite his gross and flagrant moral failures, reveals a stunning weakness in our understanding of the moral universe and Christian living. A stunning failure….

“It reveals a soul destroying and terrifying hypocrisy. It reveals a willingness to abandon principle for political power and pragmatism. And that is a result of our preaching — if we have not preached the requirements of justice and equity so clearly as to shape the minds of our people according to God’s word, to rule out such compromise and hypocrisy.

“And beloved, we have Christians who are entangled and trapped on both sides of the political spectrum. I want you to hear me clearly. Just as surely as evangelical allegiance to Donald Trump or the GOP seems to me be to ironclad and almost unshakeable, just as surely as African American Christian allegiance to Democratic platforms and politicians seems to be ironclad and almost unshakeable, it just reveals that we’re all taken hostage. It reveals that the captivity is widespread, and Satan doesn’t care who he encaptures us with; he only cares that we’re captured. And we miss the point if we argue whether or not we should be D or R, blue or red, if the consequence of that argument is we wind up being unjust and unrighteous.

“We have to preach in such a way that lifts the moral requirements and the moral imperatives of our Lord high above the political and the worldly considerations of the voter and of our family and of our individual preference until our hearts are drawn up to what the Lord calls us to. If we have not made those categories clear in our preaching, we cannot be surprised if we wind up with a people who do not understand justice.”

Learn More about “The Good Life” at The Wisdom Forum.

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