At the end of this month, Parliament will be dissolved and we’ll be well into the run up to the General Election, due to take place on 7 May. No doubt, you’ll have all the political gurus around that time forecasting what they expect to happen. But no one can call it until the votes are finally in.
Our last General Election in 2010 ended with uncertainty because none of the parties had enough of a majority to assume power. We therefore had to wait and see who would form a coalition. The resulting partnership of Tories and Lib Dems have been in power ever since. I’ve heard it said, though, that this election could be the most difficult to predict in decades.
There’s always a degree of uncertainty in democratic politics. Whilst one year you might be everyone’s favourite, the opinion polls can turn and you end up without a seat in the next election. It’s constantly changing. New policies are always being implemented and their ramifications reverberate far and near.
Lord of all
With such uncertainty, it’s always good to be reminded of who’s truly in charge, not just in the realm of politics but in the whole realm of the universe. That is of course God. One proverb poetically describes the winding and wavering decisions of those in power over society as like a river that the Lord is directing as he pleases (Prov. 21:1).
In Romans 13:1-7 we’re reminded how all governments, and in fact all forms of authority, have such positions only as they’re given to them by God. They are used by him to exercise a degree of social order and justice in the world and in societies.
Sometimes though, governments rebel against their God-given role. Sometimes they challenge God’s own authority and seek to defy him. Have you ever spotted in Psalm 2, though, how God laughs at those who think they are in charge? The warning is clear: for those who continue in defiance there is a right anger and justice that they will bring to bear.
Elsewhere in the Bible we are encouraged to pray for our government (see 1 Tim. 2:1-4). We’re to pray for a peaceful existence as Christians, so that we can maintain godly lives, and with the hope that people will be saved.
Also, because government is a gift from God to society, Christians have a responsibility to the world of politics. For example, Christians are responsible to the law, to pay taxes and to contribute to society in a fitting way.
As we live in a democracy, there is a responsibility for us to use our vote for the good of society. There seems to be an increasing apathy for politics, especially among those of the younger generation (of which I’m a part). That will not do for the Christian. We are not taken out of the world, even though we are no longer identified primarily with it (John 17:15-16), so we are to honour the authority over us by voting.
That means we should be clued up on what parties offer. There is no party that will perfectly reflect our desires for society as Christians, but that doesn’t mean we can’t vote for any of them. We may want to investigate each party’s manifesto with regards to certain key issues that impact our faith and find which party best reflects our principles.
To help us think through some of the various issues connected to the world of politics, we’ve planned this issue of the magazine to explore some of these matters. We have various articles looking at prayer, the relationship between church and state, and our responsibility to government as Christians. There’s also historical reflection on William Wilberforce who involved himself in politics and made a stand for Christian principles.
But then we also shouldn’t see politics as the ultimate answer to the world’s problems. Even though governments have been given by God, we know that in the fallen world we live in, the only true hope is in the good news of Jesus. Back in Psalm 2, as God laughs down from heaven at defiant leaders, he also declares that he has set his King in place – Jesus his Son.
Hope in Jesus
Whatever our political persuasions, we are ultimately to be given to him. Whatever good we think there is for politics in God’s lovingkindness expressed to all, his ultimate special lovingkindness is only fully shown in his Son. True peace and harmony in society will never be fully realised through human constructs, but only through divine intervention. The brokenness of the world in sin can only be addressed through the sacrifice of Christ for sin.
So, in addition to the articles on politics, we have plenty of other articles. They will remind us of our faith and encourage us in our faith to see how God continues to be at work in our world through the good news of Jesus.
As society shifts once again in the wavering world of government, our hope is in Jesus who will one day return to rule in a newly recreated joined heaven and earth. In this new world, there will then be true peace and harmony as our sinful brokenness is finally removed. Until then we live as those with responsibility to society and yet ultimately building for something much better and greater than the here and now could ever be.