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Today: Wednesday, June 29, 2016


God and the nations

First published 26 Jun 2016

It’s not often that one day’s events change the world dramatically.  Thursday in the United Kingdom was such a day, when the nation voted to leave the European Union.  The consequences are totally unpredictable and unknown.  The reactions cover the full range of emotions, from utter elation to total despair.

A decision like that, which affects not only Britain, but the whole of Europe and which has immediate implications for the world as a whole, needs to be set in a wider context.  In these hours after the decision, in the shocked reaction which many will feel, there is still too much to take in, too many uncertainties to face.

But there is a bigger picture and a longer story.  It can be summed up in some of the words of the ancient people of Israel, whose Psalms speak often of the fragility of the nations.  They think much of themselves, their sovereignty, their greatness, their powers, but they will not last and their glories will fade and be forgotten.

Psalm 46 (verse 6) speaks of a catastrophic upheaval, but into such a shaken world, the Psalm goes on (in verse 10) to voice God’s perspective - “Be still,” God says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.”

There are many similar passages, like Psalm 72 (verse 11) which are reminders that in the end there is only one ultimate authority, only one real ruler, to whom all others are answerable - “All kings will bow down before him; all nations will serve him.”

At the climax of the Christian story, as Jesus hung on the cross in Jerusalem, he looked out over a world in which the supreme power was Rome with its great empire stretching over so much of the then known world.  A Roman soldier stood beside the cross.  Around him were local people from the Jewish nation.  And mingling with the crowds were foreigners from many other countries in the region.

But Jesus’ death there was not about any political system or those temporary powers, it was not about any particular nation or culture.  It was for all the world, for all time and for all people of every nation.  His death was to open the way back to God, to draw all people in penitence into the Father’s love, whatever their politics, whatever their background, whatever their failings.

Whatever the governing authorities may be, Christians are called to live like this Jesus - with openness and concern for people of whatever background, especially those in greatest need.  That doesn’t need any particular political system - though some will be more helpful than others - but it does need people committed to the Jesus who committed himself to all the world and every nation and you and me.

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I pray for the nations of the world and especially for the rulers and authorities of my own government, that they might act wisely, show care and compassion, and be true servants of God.  Lord, may I know, whatever my own political views may be, the love of Jesus, and share that love wherever I can.

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