Bishop Eric Menees
We continue our exploration of the Jerusalem Declaration (the full text of which can be found here:
This week we look at point ten – Social Responsibility.
We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.
Since long before the birth of Christ, there have been those who have felt led by God to be go out into the wilderness and to live solitary lives. The Jewish Essene Community and the Christian Desert Fathers often felt this way, and perhaps even had a gifting from God to do so. However, for the vast majority of His believers, it is not isolation from, but rather engagement with the world that God desires. If we look back to the biblical account of creation, God gives Adam and Eve the clear responsibility to care for creation. Jewish law clearly calls on the believer to care for the immigrant and widow living among them. Jesus himself, throughout the Gospels and especially in Matthew 25, tells us that rather than being separate from the world, we must engage the world with the good news of Jesus Christ!
It should be no surprise then that we in the Anglican Church in North America would embrace point 10 of the Jerusalem declaration. We are called to steward creation, seek justice, and care for the poor; all as biblical mandates.
Let me be clear: these three mandates from God work in conjunction with one another, not over and above each other. In recent times, there are those who would care for creation at the great expense of justice and the poor. This is not what God desires, nor what the Bible mandates. We are to be the best stewards of creation in order to fulfill the Great Commandment to love God with all that we have and are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
How do we love God by being good stewards of creation? It is clear from Genesis, and in Romans chapter 1 — among other places — that God is reflected in His creation, just as the potter is reflected in his pottery. The beauty of God can be seen in creation, inspiring us to worship Him; and the provision of God is also made known through creation. We give thanks to God for all that He has given to us, and that He continues to give us in creation. However, when we confuse the two and hold creation above the creator, or somehow believe that creation and the creator are one and the same, we fail in our duty to be good stewards.
To love God by pursuing justice means that we must be good citizens. Again, in the book of Romans it is made clear that God has instituted the government to punish crime and maintain justice. (Romans 13:1-7) So, what do we do when we see the government acting in an unjust manner? Scripture demands that we work for justice through all legal means possible; resist unjust laws nonviolently; and all the while giving witness to the Author of all justice.
This year we remember the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King fought against injustice by publicly naming it, and by using nonviolent means to resist it. The world is a better place because of Dr. King and the thousands of Christians like him, who spoke up rather than remain silent. Is there a lot more to do? Of course, there is, and their examples should guide us!
In addition to being good stewards and loving justice, we are to do all in our power to give relief to the poor. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus was clear to say:
...Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:34-36, 40)
This Scripture speaks for itself; if we are to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, then we must care for the poor in our midst.
I pray you all a truly blessed week, and I thank you for your prayers for my recovery from shoulder surgery. I am indeed blessed and recovering quickly.