In a time when there is great cynicism about politics, and particularly politicians, it is good to remember why we as God’s people should be involved in that work. In the space of six verses in 2 Corinthians 5, we have a three-fold explanation of God’s vision for politics and our role in it. In verse 14, we have the motivation - “the love of Christ compels us” - before the nature of work is set out in verse 18 - “everything is from Christ, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” - and our status and credentials are made known in verse 20 - “we are ambassadors for Christ”.
When there is a government reshuffle, much attention is paid to who is in charge of this or that government department or ministry, since these appointments indicate which faction or person is in favour and who is being side-lined. Our amazing privilege is that God has entrusted to us the ministry that is at the very heart of what He has been doing since the start of history. This work of bringing humanity back to God reached its climax when Jesus died for our sins on the Cross so that we might be reconciled to our Creator. We now partake in this ministry as ambassadors, seeking to share the hope of reconciliation with others.
In our divided world, a politics centred around the theme of reconciliation can be an immense force for good. Earlier this month, I saw first-hand the status and respect that are often accorded to ambassadors, as well as the importance of a politics of reconciliation and what this can involve in terms of long-term commitment.
The week before last, the second EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly (PPA) took place at Westminster. This body, foreseen under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, brings 35 legislators from each side to discuss issues that have arisen because of the parting of ways. This second meeting was marked by a real desire to move away from recrimination and finger-pointing. MEPs, MPs and Peers looked for issues where they could work together to make a positive difference to people’s lives. They discussed practical issues such as cooperation on energy supplies and looked at ways to ensure the people in Northern Ireland are not forgotten. The PPA also heard directly from representatives of the devolved assemblies, including Stormont. Bringing people together, listening to them and working on issues that will address differences and problems are all elements of what a politics of reconciliation contains.
One other guest who addressed the Assembly was the outgoing EU ambassador to the UK. As an ambassador, he owes his status not to his qualities, impressive though they are, but to a higher authority, who has conferred this status on him. Whomever he speaks to, he is aware that he is having those conversations primarily because of whom he represents. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and what we say may at any time be taken as representing what Christians believe, and we should weigh our words accordingly. Equally, ambassadors frequently seek to impart a message from their sending authority, and we too should look for opportunities to speak the truth and share the good news of the kingdom.
Just before the PPA, I was in Pristina for the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee. The hallway of the Assembly there has a harrowing exhibition to remember The Disappeared from the war in 1999, with pictures and testimony from the families of those still waiting for the return of their loved ones. You see the pain right in the heart of the Parliament, and we heard of the ongoing efforts to build the country barely two decades after the war. There is still a 3600-strong NATO peacekeeping force (KFOR) on the ground, implementing a UN mandate to maintain a safe and secure environment and support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic, and peaceful Kosovo. We had a reminder that this is still necessary, as tensions are flaring up dangerously in the north of the country, as large numbers of ethnic Serbs have resigned from official positions, notably the police, and their political representatives have stopped taking part in the political process, looking instead to the Serbian government in Belgrade. This separation from the political and civic structures is a worrying reminder that the work of reconciliation is a lengthy, labour-intensive, and demanding task. It is not a task that is ever completed. Just as we are called to take up our cross daily, our battle against sin, the world, and the Devil is ongoing until we are called into Jesus’ presence. But we know that Jesus has won the complete and final victory, and we are called to serve Him in the struggle.
We are Christ’s ambassadors, called to the ministry of reconciliation. It is hard work, but it is a privilege and an honour to be called to this work. Those of us involved in politics have a special privilege and a special responsibility. Pray for us as we carry out this task, the words of Galatians 6, “let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.”