British politics is in an almighty mess and there are no quick...
Our nation is more deeply divided than at any time in recent history. Brexit is the obvious cause of this.
In the 2016 referendum 52% voted Leave and 48% voted Remain. Whilst most Remainers democratically accept the result, there is no consensus about what Brexit means. Some want us to walk away without any compromises whilst others wish for a deal that is good for business and avoids job losses. Normally politics is about finding an outcome that gives both sides some of what they want but neither gets everything they want. The crisis facing Britain today is that compromise has come to mean betrayal.
What is a Christian response to this? First we should recognise that this is not an issue peculiar to our time. Every November 5th we remember about Guy Fawkes and the Gun Powder Plot – which was a prelude to the Civil War 1642-51and the execution of King Charles in 1649. That divide was only healed in 1660 when Charles’ son was made King.
The Old Testament also gives us examples of divisions in Israel. The people quarrelled with Moses on the banks for the Red Sea. “What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt,’ Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’” (Exodus 14:12). Later they rebelled again saying, “If only we have died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” (Numbers 14:2-3). Later the enmity between King Saul and David and then the conflict between Jeroboam and Rehoboam divided Israel into two nations.
If we are looking for ways of healing our divided nation the prophet Isaiah points to the need for wisdom and foresees how God will supply this. “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch with bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”(Isaiah 11:1-2).
The Apostle Paul grasped the crucial importance of wisdom in his letter to the Ephesians. Acts 19 describes the conflict there and Paul “keeps asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Eph. 1:17) James echoes this,” if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5). In other words, if we want to be healers in our divided nation we need to be asking God for wisdom to know how best to go about it. At the same time Paul gives tougher advice in his letter to Titus, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.” (Titus 3:9-11)
How do we relate this biblical teaching to our current situation? It is easy to say we should be wise and pray for the nation’s healing but what might those prayers say? We must each decide that for ourselves but mine include four specific petitions. First, that our politicians put the wellbeing of the nation before the interests of their party. Second, that they put principle before personal ambition. Third, that we all follow Jesus’ teaching to seek the good of our neighbour before our own. Fourth, that we all pray for God’s will to be done before we pontificate about anything, especially issues that are so divisive.