21 April 2017
General election 2017: taken by surprise
Matt Wilson is head of partnerships at TLG, the education charity.
"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does." Psalm 145:13.
Trying to predict tomorrow's headlines is a perilous pastime. As this week has evidenced only too clearly, sudden events can happen that surprise the pundits and the public alike.
Over the last few days the prime minister's announcement calling for a snap general election on 8 June has provoked a wide range of reactions. One aspect of her decision that came under scrutiny was the previous statements she'd made denying any intention to call an early election. To some, the contradiction called into question her integrity as a leader. However, with Good Friday still lingering in our minds, we do well to recall the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate.
John 18:36-38 reads: "Jesus said: 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.'
"'You are a king, then!' said Pilate.
"Jesus answered: 'You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'
"'What is truth?' retorted Pilate."
To anyone interested in the intersection of power and truth, the confrontation is profound and revealing. Pilate appears typical of political leaders governing in a temporal sphere, within which truth is simply an articulation of present realities. In their world, what is true today is true because of circumstance, according to the alignment of numerous factors, some of which they may be able to influence, many of which they may not.
That's why it's so easy for political leaders of every hue to make promises to which they can become hostage. Think of Nick Clegg's "I'm sorry" on tuition fees, or the 'Ed Stone' saga during the last general election. Across the pond, President Trump has quickly become a hostage to the timeline of his own Twitter feed – his past promises to stay out of Syria have been reversed quickly now that he's in office, with as yet unknown consequences.
We're reminded then, that being 'on the side of truth' within our Christian community means building our lives on the sure foundation of God's word, not on the shifting sands of public opinion. This isn't to say that we live our lives insulated from events or pay no attention to the changing world around us - far from it. As Christians we engage with that world in myriad ways; through the jobs we do, the charities we volunteer for, the causes that we campaign about. But as Christ-followers we choose to anchor the activities of our daily lives within a larger story, of an everlasting kingdom – a certain future towards which we orient our hope.
So let's not be surprised when political leaders change their minds or break their promises. Instead let's turn our eyes to the one who is "trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does".