23 February 2012
Faith is definitely flavour of the month. You can't help but notice the number of faith stories in the news lately. From prayers at council meetings and the rights of Christian B&B owners to the question of 'militant secularism', faith is a hot topic. Generally no-one seems to mind when we keep our faith to ourselves. We can sing, dance and preach to the choir all we like. The problem starts when we go public.
As evangelical Christians this presents a difficulty. Politics is a label that we have given to certain aspects of life. From Genesis to Revelation we see a holy God who seeks relationship with us in every area of our lives. We are commanded to tell others about Jesus Christ and we seek to glorify Him with every thought, word and action. Instead of building our own empire and reputation we seek to build the Kingdom of God. In essence, a Christian's faith is their defining feature not their private hobby.
The fact that this leads to conflict in our society is not a surprise. The Bible says that the wisdom of the cross will seem like foolishness to the world. In our pluralistic society, Christians claim an absolute authority on truth, morality and the way to eternal life. This is seen as offensive and narrow-minded to say the least. Perhaps more than ever Christians need wisdom and prayerful consideration when choosing their public battles. Opinion on difficult issues varies greatly even between Christians. The how's, why's, where's and when's of Christian engagement in politics will surely divide opinion but there is one thing we need to guard against.
The gospel cannot be removed from politics but it should never be politicised.
To clarify, there is no political party, denomination, movement or country that can claim any monopoly on the cross. Royalists and republicans, unionists and nationalists, conservatives, labour and liberals - none can stake a divinely ordained claim within the church of Christ. The danger is that faith becomes a political football, a way to secure allegiance and woo an electorate. The temptation is to 'do deals' and pander to those who are simply treating Christian faith as a tool rather than a living reality. It's not a new threat and it's happening right now throughout the world.
The good news of God's grace in Jesus Christ for whoever believes stands alone. It transcends time and tradition. God is in control, He is never on the back foot, overtaken by current events. We must protect the freedom of the gospel and avoid even well-meaning attempts to bind it to a national flag or party rosette.
Actually on reflection, to say that "Jesus is Lord" is perhaps the most political statement we can make. It's bold, dangerous and demands everything from us. In the coming days may we have clarity and courage to speak and to live revolutionary lives in the pursuit of nothing but Jesus Christ.