In our January issue of the Moravian Magazine, we introduced a new regular feature, “Studying Moravian Doctrine.” Following the outline established by Jesus Still Lead On, An Introduction to Moravian Belief, we will cover different aspects of two central documents outlining Moravian doctrine and belief each month. In 2015, we are working through the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living (MCCL); in 2016, we’ll cover the Ground of the Unity.
This month will cover the parts of the MCCL dealing with Raising Children and The Witness of a Christian Citizen.
Thanks to Dr. Craig Atwood and the editors of Jesus Still Lead On (produced in 2005) for this material. If you are interested in obtaining the entirety of Jesus Still Lead On, please contact the IBOC or visit store.moravian.org.
The full text of the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living and the Ground of the Unity are available as a free download from www.moravian.org. Printed copies are available from the IBOC.
As parents, remembering that our children are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 1:19), we will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and take all possible care to preserve them from every evil influence. For this reason we will seek to approve ourselves as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, setting an example for our children. We will give faithful attention to the spiritual development of our children, both in the home and in the church. We will endeavor to conduct regular family devotions.
At one time the Moravian Church reserved the right to raise children for people if it was deemed that the parents were not raising them in a proper Christian fashion or were abusing them. That is no longer the practice, but the church continues to offer guidance and counsel to parents. The Moravian Church in every province of the Unity and in every congregation (since the earliest days of the church) baptizes infants as a witness to our conviction that children share in the redemptive work of Christ. We have always taught that children should be raised in such a way that they know that they are children of God and that they should value their relationship to God. Not every church shares this conviction, and we do not judge others, but infant baptism has been precious to Moravians for centuries and it influences our Christian education efforts. The Moravian Church also condemns all forms of child abuse, even if conducted in the guise of Christian discipline. We understand that it takes work and prayer to build strong families where Christian values are evident.
- Would it change our treatment of children if we recognize that they are the property of the Lord instead of belonging to us?
- What responsibility does this place on parents?
- How do we preserve children from evil influences without withdrawing from society?
- What is the difference between discipline, punishment, and abuse in families?
- Why does the Covenant call parents to set an example of Christian behavior for children?
- How can you assist in the spiritual development of the children in your congregation?
The Witness of the Christian Citizen
Paragraphs 25, 26, and 27:
We will be subject to the civil authorities as the powers ordained of God, in accordance with the admonitions of Scripture (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13–14) and will in nowise evade the taxes and other obligations which are lawfully required of us (Romans 13:7).
Considering it a special privilege to live in a democratic society, we will faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of our citizenship, among which are intelligent and well-informed voting, a willingness to assume public office, guiding the decisions of government by the expression of our opinions, and supporting good government by our personal efforts.
Though giving our loyalty to the state of which we are citizens, we do recognize a higher loyalty to God and conscience (Acts 5:29).
Romans 13 has a long and sometimes painful history in the Christian Church. This passage caused problems for our ancestors when they violated the laws of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire by separating themselves from the worship of the Catholic Church. Many were persecuted by the state and told they must be obedient because of Romans 13. At times, our church has simply withdrawn from governments and established separate communities where we would not have to face difficult decisions. There have been many occasions when Moravians refused to take up arms even in defense of their nation. It took a long time for Moravians to adjust to life in a democratic society that guarantees freedom of religion.
Through the years we came to realize that there is a special opportunity and even calling for Christians to influence the laws of the land so that they may reflect Christian values without violating the separation of church and state. Even so, we recognize the right to resist evil laws. We endorse the Barmen Declaration that was written in 1934 in Germany in opposition to the actions of the Nazi government. The Barmen Declaration reaffirmed the Christian conviction that God rather than the State is sovereign.
Moravians have sometimes refused to cooperate with laws that we have seen as a violation of the most basic aspects of justice. However, the Moravian church has not preached violence or rebellion. Moravians who live in America enjoy the blessings of a government based on the idea of a social contract, and the Covenant reminds us that we need to fulfill our part of the contract. Many Moravians now serve in public office as part of their Christian vocation.
- Why is it a duty for Christians to pay what is justly required of them by their governments?
- How does this statement in the Covenant reflect the understanding of a social contract as part of God’s design for human society?
- What are your responsibilities as a citizen in a free society?
- Do you think Moravian ministers and Sunday School teachers should try to influence people’s votes before elections?
- Should the church as a whole express its views to elected officials through letters and other means?
- What do you think it means to be loyal to the state or the nation? Does this mean not criticizing the government’s actions or attitudes?
- Can you think of times in world history when it would have been good if Christians had resisted the laws or actions of their governments?
Next month: Peace and Our Witness to the World.
From the September 2015 Moravian Magazine