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Northern Ireland: Darkness and light

We are to redirect the fear ... in the world around us into the hope of Jesus, says Peter Lynas

Our role, as best I understand, it is to seek the peace and prosperity of the place in which God has put us (Jeremiah 29). It is missional, relational, biblical and political in the broadest sense of that word.

We have prayed, petitioned, protested and polled; we have engaged with the press, politicians and the public. We have tried to carry ourselves with integrity, grace, compassion and love. We have made every effort, as we should have done. 

The laws on marriage and abortion have now changed, though their final form is yet to be determined. We will be encouraging you to engage in the consultation process on both marriage and abortion, because there are important issues still to be resolved. 

There have been wonderful moments of church unity and proactive public engagement. We want to build on that unity and public activity. Northern Ireland is changing. The church here will have to change. Not our fundamental beliefs or practices or because the gospel changes, but because God accommodated Himself and appeared in human form as a first century Jewish man. Jesus was, for want of better phrase, culturally relevant’.

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Our culture in Northern Ireland is shifting to one with less space for God. It is instead driven by radical individualism, person choice and a loose relationship with truth. These are challenging times. The gospel leads the church to feed the poor, care for those in prison, and encourage good stewardship of the environment. It also leads us to champion marriage and to protect human life and dignity. 

It is the culture around us that has made sexuality and abortion the touchstone issues of this moment. An increasing challenge for the church is how do we speak up for women and the unborn while remaining missional? How do we talk about human sexuality and the love of Jesus? 

There aren’t simple answers to these questions. But in these chaotic times we remember that Jesus leads the resurrection parade — He is supreme in the end… So spacious is He, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in Him without crowding. 

Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe — people and things, animals and atoms — get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of His death, His blood that poured down from the cross.” (Colossians 1:18 – 20 MSG)

Today is a dark day and many of us are grieving. Each of us will process the events of yesterday differently and it is important that we can find and create space for lament, disappointment and righteous anger to be voiced (we have drafted a prayer that you may find helpful as you navigate these emotions). Then at some point we ask the question that President Bartlett in The West Wing (the best TV ever written) asked: What’s next?

We are called to be merchants of holy hope – in our marriages and families; in our schools and hospitals; in workshops and offices; in buses and trains; in houses and homes. We are to redirect the fear and insecurity in the world around us into the hope of Jesus. 

That’s what’s next, and we want to resource and equip you for the journey.

About the author

Peter is passionate about faith in the public square and in the workplace. He leads the team at the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland. Peter worked as a barrister in Belfast for five years, before completing his M Div at Regent College in Vancouver where he serves on the Board. He is a regular commentator in the media and has taught at Westminster Theological Centre and Belfast Bible College. He is married to Rose, has two daughters, loves running and hates fish.

See more from Peter Lynas

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