Theology 101

Can Believers Work with Unbelievers?

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The Cultural Mandate dictates that mankind has a responsibility to be stewards of creation, both in the sphere of nature and the sphere of culture. After the Fall and the curse of sin, this endeavor became much more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19). Yet because God restated the Cultural Mandate to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1), we know that it still applies to us despite our sin.

Our job is to do whatever we can to shape creation to reflect God’s glory. Christians are called to fill and subdue the earth, to transform the world and put everything under the Lordship of Christ until he comes again.

As Christians fulfill this mission in our daily lives and vocations, we will find ourselves working together with non-Christians for common political, economic, or cultural causes. For guidance, there is Biblical precedent for believers cooperating with non-believers to achieve ends under the Cultural Mandate.

  • Joseph worked with the Egyptians to alleviate famine (Genesis 41).
  • Daniel served faithfully in Nebuchadnezzar’s court (Daniel 2).
  • Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles in Babylon charging them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).
  • Paul told the Galatians, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10).

At the same time, there is other scripture which seems to say the opposite.

  • When the Israelites escaped from Egypt, “they plundered the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35-36).
  • Paul admonished the Corinthians, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and unrighteousness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  • When the Jews returned from Babylon, the Samaritans were not allowed to help the people of God rebuild the temple (Ezra 4:1-3).

This concept of cooperating with unbelievers, but not being yoked with them, being “in the world but not of the world,” is more complicated than it first appears. Help is found in the “Doctrine of Common Grace.”

This is the fourth of the five principles that need to be understood in order to integrate your faith with your work. The first three are the Four Chapter Gospel, the Cultural Mandate, and the Kingdom of God.

Question: At your job, do you feel like you are doing God’s work? Leave a comment here.

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