Brexit, coronavirus, and war in Europe. In just six years from 2016, we have experienced more turmoil and change than in the previous thirty. This is particularly the case for those who fall into the millennial or Gen Z categories. A vote on Britain’s future in Europe divided, and continues to divide, the nation. Laws and restrictions that were once believed ‘unimaginable’ in a western democracy were introduced at speed in the UK and across Europe to curb the impact of coronavirus. Most recently, a long period of relative peace in Europe was shattered as Russian troops and tanks poured into Ukraine. So where do we go when the impact of these events hits us, and when we are despairing as we trawl through the news headlines littered with catastrophe? How do we make sense of what is happening in Europe and the wider world, and who do we look to for answers?
Well, for many, it’s our elected representatives. Over the past one hundred years, in Britain, we have seen a decline in those professing faith in the God of the Bible (Faith Survey, 2016). In the absence of God, we have raised the Government and politicians up in His place, as G.K. Chesterton wrote, ‘Once abolish the God and the government becomes the God’ (G.K. Chesterton, Christendom in Dublin). We have put our hope in elected representatives to solve the problems of our society, locally, nationally, and globally. This isn’t just a secular problem, I think if we are honest, as Christians we have started to shift our reliance to the Government to provide for us. I think an issue that highlights this is the ‘climate crisis’. We think that this is an issue that the government and governments around the world can ultimately solve. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying, I think that steps towards limiting the impact of the ‘climate crisis’ are important, and governments should be taking it seriously. But, until Jesus returns, we will never have the environmental utopia that we long for. This world is broken beyond government repair, only the Risen King can make all things new (Revelation 21).
I think it is important to say at this point that of course there is a biblical basis for the governments that we have. Indeed, I believe those of us in Britain are hugely blessed to live in a democratic nation that allows us such freedom. Biblically we are called to honour political systems, and as God’s people, we have a command to participate in them (Mark 12:17, 1 Peter 2:17). The problem occurs when we look to them, rather than God, for our ultimate hope, even our salvation.
As Christians, we need to hold these two things in tension. On the one hand, it is vital that we remember that this world is not our ultimate home. We are, as the Bible says, ‘sojourners in a foreign land’ (Exodus 2:22, 1 Peter 1:17) and we await the return of Jesus to make all things new. Our ultimate hope is in God, He is sovereign over all creation, and nothing that has happened, is happening, or will happen in the world, occurs without Him knowing, and indeed without His permission (Colossians 1:16-17). When we feel overwhelmed by the darkness around us, we need to turn to God, not the government. It is Jesus, the Light of the World who shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome Him (John 1:5). Only Jesus can offer us salvation and hope of life everlasting (John 10:28).
On the other hand, we see right from the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, the call to be stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28). As ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we have a real opportunity, indeed, a call to represent Him in the world. In our schools, universities, workplaces, and yes in politics. We are called to care about injustice, poverty, and the protection and care of the most vulnerable in our society (Deuteronomy 15:11, Galatians 2:10). It is important that we as Christians engage in the political system, whether that is voting, joining pressure groups, or standing for office ourselves. We should not put our ultimate hope in government and politics, but we should live out our creation mandate and engage with the world around us, representing Christ in all areas (Ephesians 2:10).
When faced with the global trials and sufferings of this world, let us lift our eyes to the Lord, for that is where our hope comes from (Psalm 121:1-2). Let us be quick to lift situations to Him in prayer, and trust that He is good in and through it all. Let us pray for our politicians and government, that God might guide them to make good decisions. All the while remembering that until Jesus returns, the world will never be perfect (Romans 8:22), the weight of the world cannot be placed on the government, they cannot bear it. But Jesus, who bore the weight of the Cross, has promised that He will return to make all things new, our ultimate hope rests in Him.
Why not take a few minutes to consider how these truths can help us communicate the gospel to those placing their ultimate hope in politics and then pray for opportunities to share this good news with them?