The early Church was largely silent in the political arena. Christians...
The election on June 8th is arguably the most important for many years. The outcome of the Brexit negotiations that the newly elected Government will handle could have significant consequences for more than the current generation.
A bad deal could lead to major job losses and a serious downturn in the economy. More than that, if it is fuelled by and perpetuates xenophobic attitudes to foreigners, it will seriously damage Britain’s role and influence in the world and make it difficult to recruit the labour we need in the NHS, agriculture and the construction industry.. It could also damage our capacity to deal effectively with such crucial issues as climate change, terrorism and international crime, all of which require cooperation with our European neighbours.
The importance of Christians prayerfully casting our votes is also crucial for the spiritual and moral state of the nation. Britain is fast becoming a secular society in which Christian values have very little influence. We see the result in the social legislation passed by Parliament on such issues as same-sex marriage and abortion. Politics and the media are two of the engine rooms of social change and the lack of a strong Christian involvement and leadership in society for much of the last 50 years has helped to bring about the marginalisation of Christian influence in the public square.
There are still too many Christians who say politics is a dirty business and they don’t want anything to do with it. It is true that politics can be dirty. It is about the acquisition and exercise of power. It often involves compromises, choosing between the lesser of two evils because that is a consequence of living in a fallen world but it is less likely to be dirty if those involved are living in prayerful submission to the Lord Jesus. If there is dirt there is a need for the cleansing agents of Christian salt and light. That is why Jesus used those metaphors in his Sermon on the Mount.
History records brilliant examples of Christian salt and light at work. John Wesley not only preached the Gospel but was also seen as a prophet of social righteousness. The spiritual revival God used Wesley to lead did more to transfigure the moral character of the nation than any other movement in British history. William Wilberforce and the Clapham sect followed Wesley’s example in their campaign to abolish the slave trade and set the slaves free. Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury, who followed them, engaged in a wide range of initiatives about the plight of lunatics, child workers in factories, women and children in mines and the homeless children on the streets of London. His work was carried on by the Shaftesbury Society, renamed Livability in 2007, and other organisations that care for the most needy and marginalised in society. Street pastors and food banks are other expressions of Christian social responsibility.
All that is evidence of caring Christian consciences at work, like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable but this alone is not enough. We need Governments and Parliaments that make laws and policies that prevent the suffering and the harm that our spiritually broken society causes. Prevention is better than cure. That may be an idealistic aspiration but it is one Christians should surely take seriously. Voting and lobbying the MPs elected in June are actions we can all take. If it seems too late for that we can at least educate our children so they take political involvement seriously and relate their Christian faith to how they do politics.