In a country that seems to be in a permanent state of electoral campaigning, it is comforting to remember that there is a Saviour coming whose government shall be eternal. As a Christian, I feel dejected by the absence of God-honouring leadership, of moral representation in our land – and then I remember something else very important: I did this. My faithlessness, and prayerlessness, my insistence in going forward on my own wisdom and strength . . . these things have broken the society of which I am part.
The society of which I am part, incidentally, is one where some children sleep in their outdoor clothes at night, because their families are too poor to afford heating. Men and women bed down on cold, hard pavements because a rich nation like Scotland cannot provide them with a roof over their heads. And then I, and people like me, assuage our guilt by donating money: tiny, tiny drops in an ocean of need.
Yes, I pray for them, lifting them up to God – when I remember to. Do I weep over them, though? Beg him to intervene? The truthful answer is: not often enough.
As political manifestos go, the Bible is as radical as it gets. So radical that it’s uncomfortable. Do people like me want to be told that our wealth is an obstacle to our entrance into the kingdom of God? Are we prepared to love our neighbour as ourselves? That’s what Christ expects of us, not because he is unreasonable, but because he went so much further himself.
We’re supposed to be impressed when we see the Prime Minister in a high-vis jacket on a building site, or an MP prepared to ‘sleep out’ on a December night to demonstrate solidarity with the homeless. They are perceived as forsaking their dignity in ‘coming down’ to our level.
My Party Leader relinquished his godness to be born into the humblest of circumstances. He was ridiculed, persecuted, and hunted for speaking the truth. This world rejected him and nailed him on a cross to die. We crowned him with thorns and gave him sour wine to drink. Then he was goaded to prove that he was indeed the Christ by coming down from the cross and saving himself.
He stayed exactly where he was and, when the moment was right, surrendered his spirit into the hands of God.
Why? Was it for votes? For power?
There was no advantage in any of this for him, if we assess his actions in political terms. Christ had nothing to gain, for how could he ever be greater than he was?
So, that leaves only one logical explanation. It was all motivated by love for us.
Right at this moment in time, are you not beguiled at the thought of a government founded on love, and led by love? I know I am. That’s why I follow him, why all my hopes are in him, and why I would dearly love to see things run his way, to his glory.
Then, however, I don’t act as though this is what I want. Instead I get diverted by my own ambitions. The inner control freak tries to bend everything to her will, forgetting that submission is the first rule of this particular party membership. If I’m not being led by Christ, then I’m being led by my own sin, and by the leader of the opposition in his bid for power. Satan, the master of spin, can get me to do just what he wants the moment I strike out for myself.
And what I want is mostly about me. It comes down to my desires and priorities. The time I give in my thoughts, and in my prayers, to those whom Christ blessed – the poor, the needy, the sick, the fatherless – is shamefully minimal. Do I please him in this? Of course not.
If I spent more time asking myself the right questions, I would probably carry less guilt about the state of our nation. There are really only two enquiries we need make in any given situation: how can I glorify God in this, and how can I experience more of his love? Individual Christians living their lives this way will build up into a church which functions similarly, and a church which shows the world a better route can only lead to improvements in the leadership we elect.
It is because I have not repented enough or prayed enough that the church of Christ’s witness in this world is weakened. I should be demonstrating that I expect more from politicians than to follow their own judgement, by not always following my own. Because I am dumb on these points, the church also is silent.
It follows, therefore, that when the church is silent, the nation does not know any better.
And because the nation does not know any better, it acts on what it is pleased to call its ‘wisdom’. That is what gives us situations like the one in which we currently find ourselves. I don’t mean Brexit particularly, or the prospect of further constitutional flux – I am talking about the fact that the poorest and most vulnerable in our society consistently get forgotten about when we choose our leadership.
Even that, though, is just a symptom. We have taken God out of our reckoning. Whether we accept it or not, he is sovereign over all, and he is looking on at what we do with the free will to choose leaders. And he is wondering why, in all this mess, we still think we can do it with no reference to him.