By Dan Dwelly, Pastor at Christchurch Tilehurst
Finally, the time has come. You have placed your ‘X’, the ballots are counted and probably by the time you read this, Britain has a new/old government! I wonder what you’re feeling right now though: perplexed, indifferent, scared, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, positive, cynical, bored, frustrated? Emotions I’m sure many of us have had over the last six weeks!
The True King and His Kingdom
Whoever is in government by Friday, it is important that we remember that there is only one true King and only one true kingdom.
Jesus is our King. In fact, he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). He is the King who rescues his own people from the dominion of Satan, sin and death. Jesus delivers us, transforming us, forgiving us, making us new in him. Through his sacrificial death and powerful resurrection, Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God, seated on his throne, high above every rule and power and authority and dominion and title (Eph 1:20-21; Col 2:9-11)!
As for Christ’s kingdom, it is out of this world, literally “not of this world” (John 18:36). It is not something of this earth, of this fallen, decaying, corrupted earth. It is eternal, spiritual, pure, radiant, full of life, and free of the reign of sin and death. Neither is it something simply physical, limited by borders and boundaries but it is found in God’s people, those who are under the rule and reign of Christ. It is not a place per se, it is a people centred on Christ himself (Luke 17:20-21). If we are in Christ we are in the kingdom!
So if you are despairing over politics and governments, remember that as Christians we firstly belong to Christ and to his glorious kingdom!
Power from on high
So, what are earthly governments for?
Romans chapter 13 verse 1 says:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
God has appointed governments and rulers– simple! God in his sovereign power and wisdom raises new ‘kings’ and rulers for us. What about the bad ones? Yes, even them! Just read John 18 and 19 to see how bad rulers can be used by God to bring about good – even our salvation!
So whoever is in government now has been put there by God for his purposes!
What are those purposes?
Well, Romans 13:4 goes on to say that our governments “are God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
Simply put, God has put in place rulers to keep us in check, to administer justice and to bring stability to society.
Governments are necessary because we live in a fallen and broken world. When men reject God, they require earthly rulers who keep order in society. The people of Israel rejected God as their king and so God gave them earthly kings – but with their earthly kings came taxation and oppression (1 Samuel 8)! Governments are the necessary consequences of our sinfulness. It was not part of God’s creation order: Adam was commanded to rule and subdue the earth – not other people!
But with sin, the rejection of God’s rule, God (mercifully) gave us earthly rulers to preserve us!
Of course, we hope and pray for good leaders, who rule well and wisely and really do stand for justice. But even the best leaders fall short.
It was Sir Winston Churchill who said,
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others”
We do not have perfect leaders or the perfect system, though it could be a lot, lot worse.
No, politics is not the answer. Certainly politics and governments can do a lot of good, but they are not the ultimate answer. What people need in Britain is to hear “the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43), to hear of the glorious King Jesus, of his work to save us from our sin through his death and resurrection, to receive the Holy Spirit in power and truth and to turn from slavery to sin and into the life of Christ. Only then will our society and culture be transformed.
So, how should we engage?
Two ways to engage
As Christians we must not disengage from politics. If we truly believe God is at work through politics then we must engage.
Here are a some ways to do that:
1. Be a good citizen: love, submit and honour
Firstly, engaging with politics is a good way to love others. If we want to see the good of others in our community and nation, then we must urge our rulers to rule in righteousness and justice. As Christians, we are particularly concerned for moral issues in society, like abortion, preservation of family, justice for the vulnerable, good stewardship of money and the environment etc. So, send that email, write that letter, make that visit and certainly vote!
Secondly, we should submit to and honour our leaders (Rom 13:1-2, 6-7; 1 Peter 2:13 &17). Remember, our leaders are appointed by God. If we dishonour them, we dishonour God because we demonstrate a lack of trust in God. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t challenge our government when we think they’re doing something wrong. And it doesn’t mean we should always obey them – the only time it is right to disobey these authorities is when they require of us something that is clearly sinful or against God (Acts 4).
We are so fortunate to have the political system that we have so we would be foolish to disengage! But we must submit to and honour our leaders.
So be careful in the way you speak about government. Be careful not to criticise because we know that God has appointed them.
If you really want to honour our leaders, instead of only writing them to tell them how much of a bad job they are doing, tell them how much you are thankful for their work, that you pray for them regularly, or even to congratulate them for some good they have done.
If all they ever hear from Christians is criticism and complaining, do you think they will listen to us at all? Don’t you think our leaders will be far more inclined to listen to us when we are being encouraging as well as doing much good in our community (1 Peter 2:15)?
In other words, by loving, submitting and honouring we show ourselves to be good citizens.
Christians ought to be the best citizens!
2. Above all…
Finally, and most importantly, pray!
First Timothy 2:1 says,
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior
Sometimes prayer can feel like the ‘tag on’ principle for everything, but seriously – prayer works (Nehemiah 1-2)!
I emailed all my local candidates for this election but only one replied. Prayer gives us direct access to the throne room of heaven where Almighty God listens and answers!
And if you don’t know what to pray then try this:
“Our Father in heaven…Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 4:9-10)