In the latest issue of Themelios, David VanDrunen offers a Reformed two-kingdoms interpretation of Matthew 5:38–42. After some careful exegesis that helps set up just why the church is not a work in retributive justice but rather a ministry of restorative reconciliation, he very helpfully defines a two-kingdoms approach to Matthew 5:38–42 and then shows how it contrasts to Lutheran, Neo-Calvinist or Transformationalist outlooks.
But one of the more interesting applications was in the very end concerning state action against the church. While he clearly recognizes the apostolic example to appeal to civil government “to abide by its own laws,” the accent seems placed upon the fact that “[T]he apostles…never retaliated when government officials treated them unjustly and never pursued legal action against those who persecuted them.” This brought to mind an example Stellman offers in his Dual Citizens when making the general point that voluntarily relinquishing rights (instead of clamoring for them) is in better service of boastworthy suffering for citizens of the New Covenant:
Here is a trickier example: if your legal right to practice your faith is in danger of being compromised, what should you do? If you Google the phrase “law firms protecting Christians’ rights,” you’ll get myriad matches, and there’s no rule that prohibits you from taking to court anyone who infringes your right to pray or read Scripture wherever you want (within reason, of course). There is something inconsistent, however, about Christians fighting for their faith by means of the sword of the U.S. justice system. Would it not be far more Christ-like to patiently endure when we are wronged, as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear?
“But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (10:32-35).