Today: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Politics and religion    (8/5/2018 1)

As a young man, a friend of mine faced a stark choice - whether to give his life to politics or become a minister in the church.  Either could be a way of influencing society, changing lives and making a better world.  He was passionate, outspoken and deeply concerned.  He could have followed either path. In fact, years later, he is just as passionate and committed today, having chosen the church as the place he believed God wanted him to serve.

For him, being a Christian was not just about believing in and being committed to Jesus Christ, but being a follower and disciple of his, and therefore getting involved in every day life.  And if that meant getting into politics, then that was where he would be a disciple of Jesus.

Some people believe that the church shouldn’t get involved in politics at all.  Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of South Africa, famously said - 'When people say that the Bible and politics don't mix, I ask them which Bible they are reading’".

In fact the Bible is full of politics.  Jesus himself was caught up in the political situation of his time.  His arrest and crucifixion were political as well as religious events.  His teaching was full of political implications.  Many of his followers today are seen as a threat to the political ambitions of some governments.

Christians have only one political objective - that God’s Kingdom may come on earth.  But they have many different ideas about how, hold many different political views, and vote for many varied policies.

When the church, or for that matter any religion - in any country - has become too closely aligned with the national government of that country, it has generally spelt trouble.  In the Christian tradition it has been good when the church could stand a little apart from government, and not be afraid to question and criticise and to offer a different vision.

Over the centuries we have to confess that we have not always been very good at striking the right balance.  Sometimes we have been silent when we should have shouted.  Sometimes we have shouted when silence would have been a better way.  Jesus did both.

So perhaps the question now is - what does it mean today for me to live as a follower of Jesus in today’s complex world?  How should I live with my neighbour?

What Jesus offers us is certainly not a detailed political agenda with one political solution.  What he did give us were fundamental principles, from which we are challenged to work out the details.

The temptation is to curl up in a corner, deepen my relationship with God - which I need to do anyway - but ignore the world God loves and Christ died for.

In coming weeks, I want to explore some of the ‘Jesus Principles’ that should be shaping our lives and our world.

Jesus, you taught us to love God with everything we are.  And then you taught us to love all around us and beyond us with compassion and commitment.  Help me to become that kind of disciple.

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