Most American evangelicals give little or no thought to the role that Christian faith has in creating a vision for society. We have privatized our faith to great excess. We have, to put it another way, focused on the first commandment, that is to love God, but failed the second, to love our neighbor.

A wideranging reformation is spreading, in various parts of the world, that aims to change this pattern. Many bright, and often young, Christians believe that there is a distinctive Christian vision for society, a vision that challenges socialism, capitalism and all other fallen ideologies. This vision generally begins with a careful reading of the Book of Deuteronomy. When you realize that these laws were not an arbitrary collection of regulations and merely human ideas, but a pattern for how an ancient society should be organized so that it would flourish, you have a solid starting point. Indeed, you have much more than a negative critique of the modern ills of society, Western or otherwise.

Simply put, I believe that how we apply biblical social teaching to neighborhoods, cities and nations is a central concern for Christians who take their calling seriously. This means that we have much more to say to human problems than the repeated nagging negative words we often hear about immorality and cultural decadence. The Christian Right, it seems to me, has almost no idea about how to pursue this kind of vision since it is so obviously rooted in a pietism and privatism that ignores corporate social structures.

Every time you pray the Lord’s Prayer you say "Your will be done on earth as in heaven." You are thereby praying for communities and nations to be transformed by God through your life and his people. The problem is that Christians rarely agree on "how" to pursue this reality. They debate the fine print and ignore the obvious in many cases.

I suggest we stop finding the small areas where we disagree about law and social theory and begin a new reforming movement by pursuing those things that we can and do agree upon. Justice and mercy clearly mark any reasonable solution that we can offer. We can start there and seek to define these by biblical principles and illustrations.

I also suggest that the fundamental reality in pursuing any common action for renewing community begins with the recognition that community truly matters to God. If we love our neighbor then this necessarily involves us in community. Every great Christian social contribution that I know of in history began with this basic belief. If we are to apply justice and mercy to our cities and nation we must begin small, in our personal and community relationships. To speak of changing large numbers of people we do not know or see, and to endlessly debate the application of the law theoretically and academically to nation change, while we ignore the neighbor we do see seems to miss the whole point.