Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Not a party political broadcast.

It can't have escaped your attention that in the UK we have our general election coming up. We can expect to see more and more picture of babies being kissed by politicians and our airwaves being overrun with political sound bites. If you are like me then by the time the election comes I have enough of it all.

But what should our response be to all of this as Christians? I have asked Pete Jobes one of our campus pastors to write a short guest blog for us on his views on what should be our response. So over to Pete.

It's election season in the UK. Posters on billboards demand your attention; politicians appear on our television screens, pleading for your vote. Celebrities tell you which way they're voting and encourage you to do the same, and the language of public debate becomes polarising and absolute.

It can seem as though everyone has an opinion and it can be hugely divisive; the other side are often seen not as our fellow men trying to do their best but branded as immoral, incapable, and many other things.

Where do we belong, as Christians, in election season? I've heard people say we should absent ourselves from the process and let it run its course and I've equally heard people say that failure to vote a particular way would be a betrayal of our beliefs; I've heard most stand points in-between too.

I believe firmly that our engagement in the political process is important. It's clear from the teaching of both Peter and Paul that they expected those in the early church to be good citizens. People were told to pray for, and submit to, their leaders regardless of whether they liked them.

Our vote is a privilege, a right that people died for, but it is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to engage with the wider world and to represent Jesus within that. To influence the way our nation is governed for better or for worse.

So how do we engage with politics and how do we vote?

One of the most important things is the way that we behave. It amazes me how often people will talk about the love of God one day then write vicious political comments on their facebook the next. I used to do the same. But descending to vitriol and hate when we voice our opinions isn't showing the love of Christ to anyone.

I implore you, as followers of Christ, please let's always remember that we represent him. St. Peter lived in Rome under the brutal dictatorship of the Emperor Nero, and yet he said that the will of God was that we honour our leaders (1 Peter 2:13-17).
Nero would later have Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded. He launched a concerted effort to wipe out the Christian faith; and yet here is Peter saying that we submit and we honour leaders. That is a challenge, but I'm sure no mainstream candidate in the UK election is as diametrically opposed to our faith as Nero was.

Our language when we talk about politics should reflect submission and honour. That doesn't mean we condone bad things, nor does it mean we have no right to voice an opinion - on the contrary we do, but we must do so while behaving in a manner that reflects well on our saviour.

So often I have seen the worst and most aggressive political commentary come from those who profess faith; my friends, this should not be so.

As to voting? I'm sure there are people reading who already have a good idea who they will vote for, and others reading who don't know yet whether they will or who they will vote for.

I'd encourage you, vote with your conscience. Don't look to the way your family or your neighbourhood have always voted. Don't look to who has the best tie in the leadership debates, or who comes up with the pithiest ways to put down their rivals. Jesus said:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
- Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)

So this should guide us in everything, including our politics. Look at the policies of the people you're considering voting for. Which of the options do you feel fits best with the life Jesus has called you to live? Are some of the parties appealing to fear and hate of your neighbour? Will a particular party help to establish a more just and fair society?

Pray about it; pray that God will help you to make an informed decision. He has given us the Word and the Holy Spirit to guide us.

And remember, no matter who we vote for, Jesus calls us to live a life of love and justice. How we vote is important, but how we live is more so.