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 Peter Wagner on Cultural Mandate

The Origin of the Cultural Mandate. As with any significant kingdom concept, the cultural mandate has its origin in God. It was first given before the fall, when only Adam and Eve comprised the human race. … (Gen. 1:26, GNB) … Gen. 1:28, gnb) these first human beings were given what Robert Webber calls ‘delegated sovereignty’ over God’s earthly creation. The were to treat creation as God himself would treat it. That was the cultural mandate.
          In New Testament times Jesus not only exemplified the cultural mandate in his own life and ministry, he summed up the entire teaching of the law and the prophets by saying, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt. 22:37-39, GNB). No one can be a kingdom person without loving one’s neighbor. No Christian can please God without fulfilling the cultural mandate.
The Demands of the Cultural Mandate. The specific content of the cultural mandate is awesome. God expects a great deal of those to whom he has entrusted the earth and all of its goodness. Distribution of wealth, the balance of nature, marriage and the family, human government, keeping the peace, cultural integrity, liberation of the oppresses – these and other global responsibilities rightly fall within the cultural mandate. Since it is God’s will that the human race live in shalom, those among them who have been born again into the kingdom and who purport to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ are required to live lives that will promote shalom to the greatest extent possible. … Some specific demands of the cultural mandate were set forth by John the Baptist when he said that those who had affluence should share with the less fortunate, that tax collectors should not overcharge, that soldiers should not be brutal or accuse falsely, and they should be content with their wages (Luke 3:11-14). This is only a sampling of the requirement of the cultural mandate; the Sermon on the Mount and numerous other biblical passage add significantly to the list of God’s expectations. (12-13)

“These two lists give us two general categories of signs of the kingdom:
Category A: Social signs or signs applied to a general class of people. These include (1) preaching good news to the poor, (2) proclaiming release to the captives, (3) liberating the oppressed, and (4) instituting the Year of Jubilee (‘acceptable year of the Lord’).
Category B: Personal signs or signs applied to specific individuals. These include (1) restoring sight to blind people, (2) casting out demons and evil spirits, (3) healing sick people, (4) making lame people walk, (5) cleansing lepers, (6) restoring hearing to deaf people, and (7) raising the dead.
   These two lists of course, do not exhaust the New Testament signs of the kingdom, but they do sum up the two major lists that Jesus himself gave. …
Category A signs are usually fulfilled somewhat gradually while Category B signs are usually miraculous or supernatural. Category A signs may have a more permanent effect on society over a longer term, while Category B signs may have a temporary effect mostly on individuals. … It is Category A signs – providing free hearing aids for the poor, shipping tons of rice to Cambodia, picketing for free labor unions in Czechoslovakia, agitating for land reform in Peru – that change social structures. … There is no question that a major cause of world poverty is international injustice, exploitation, and oppression. This needs to be remedied. (16-17, 31)

The Church and the Cultural Mandate
What has been said about hunger and poverty reflects only a small, though significant, part of the world challenge to Christians to fulfill the cultural mandate. Equal space could be given to land distribution, militarism, ecology, abortion, exploitation of sex, public education, racial discrimination, care of the elderly, nationalism, crime, human rights, population growth, totalitarianism, and any number of other social issues . The crucial question is: How do Christians individually and collectively make the maximum contribution toward alleviating the effects of demonic social forces? It is not easy to answer. I agree with Howard Snyder, who says, ‘this will never be a neat, clear-cut, triumphant road for the Church to follow. Obedience to the gospel in a world where Satan is still active means living with tensions.’ I know of no one who has the final answer, nor do I suppose any of us will have final answers in our lifetime. (33-4)

The Church and the World lAre in Creative Tension
The church must go into the world, not remain aloof. Jesus commanded his disciples to do so. The church does not attempt to control the world, since it has no biblical mandate to do so. Quite the contrary, The world is said to be controlled by principalities and powers. There is spiritual wickedness in high places. Satan is the god of this present age and will remain so until the second coming of Christ inaugurates the fullness of the age to come. And because of this, the church goes forth with the agenda of the kingdom of God and announces this agenda to the world.
    Creative tension exists because the church does recognize that it is separate from the world and that its lifestyle is different. It believes that it should influence governments to the degree possible. For example, to pass just legislation that will do kingdom things, such as helping the poor and oppressed and guaranteeing the freedom to preach the gospel and plan t churches. It cannot ignore the world’s agenda because that agenda informs the church of the needs and hurts of the world that Jesus so deeply wants to address and heal. (35)

“I am using the terms ‘social service’ and ‘social action,’ because the way that the church participates in each has an influence on the way the church grows in membership. … Social Service is the kind of social ministry geared to meet the needs of individuals and groups of persons in a direct and immediate way. … Within social service there is a further technical distinction of terms what has been fairly well accepted: relief and development. Relief treats the symptoms. It comes after the fact. Development treats the causes. …
          Social Action is the kind of social ministry geared toward changing social structures. Like development, it treats causes, but the scope is much broader and the effects more far-reaching. Social action, be definition, involves socio-political changes. If a government is mistreating a minority group, for example, it involves whatever is necessary to correct the injustice. … the end goal of social action is to substitute just (or more just) for unjust (or less just) political structures. (36)

from Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate by C. Peter Wagner, 1981.

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