Facing the media after two by-election defeats of a historically unprecedented scale, Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands tried to blame ‘legacy issues’ for the calamitous results. I have heard many excuses and attempts to shift blame before, but this was a new one to me. As euphemisms go, describing the behaviour that led to the two by-elections as legacy issues is a pretty heroic effort.
Shifting the blame is something that has been a part of human experience since Genesis 3. There in the Garden of Eden, Adam tried to blame the woman and the woman tried to blame the serpent, neither acknowledging the part their own actions. When Moses confronted Aaron after he had made a golden calf idol when Moses was up the mountain with God, Aaron’s answer was a classic of not accepting responsibility - “I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
What Hands was saying is that his party now should not be held responsible for the actions of prominent members of his party - people who were ministers not long ago. At the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month, the Prime Minister tried to present himself as an agent of change from what had gone before, not just in the thirteen years of Conservative-led government, but from the past 30 years.
We should not be too censorious about it, however transparently self-serving Hands’ attempt to shift the blame is. To be spared the consequences of our own past actions is at the heart of the appeal of the gospel. All humans are sinners, and we know that the wages of sin is death. The glorious truth of the gospel is that Jesus has died, paying the penalty of our sins, so that we can have eternal life in him. Paul expressed it wonderfully succinctly in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.
Our inheritance as human beings - our legacy - is separation from God, and ultimately death. These are pretty drastic legacy issues that we have to deal with. Yet Jesus has dealt with those issues on our behalf. He holds out the promise of adoption, that we can be His co-heirs, that we can reign with Him in eternity, if we only turn to Him in faith and repent. Just as the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
In a world where the news seems unremittingly bleak, it is good to remind ourselves that we have a great perfect hope of eternal life as a child of God, purchased by a sinless saviour who can redeem us from those legacy issues of sin, death and hopelessness. Our future inheritance in Jesus is glorious. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22). That is something to celebrate, more than any by-election result.