We live in politically uncertain times, or so the media would have us believe. Election results are unpredictable or almost too close to call and once robust political institutions are struggling to respond to the challenges of a modern communication age where ‘fake news’ is as influential to the electorate as truth. With all this in mind SBS asked Gordon Macdonald, Scottish Parliamentary Officer from CARE, to give us his thoughts on what he observes as the key uncertainties and how we as Christians might best respond in such turbulent times.
Both the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in Europe pose a challenge to the liberal, progressive and internationalist political order. As Christians, faced with these events, we can become unsettled and look to stable political and economic systems as our source of security. Instead we need to focus on what God is doing and should not be tempted to be unnerved by political and economic instability.
The Bible teaches us that God, according to His purposes, intervenes in the political affairs of nations. In Scripture we find a narrative which emphasises two characteristics of human society. Political societies are under the authority of Christ who, we read in Revelation 1:5 is the ruler over the kings of the earth. However such societies can also become a means to express rebellious idolatry and in such times God intervenes both to bless and to judge. We read of examples of such intervention across Scripture: the idolatrous, one-world and materialistic governance of Babel comes under divine judgement in Genesis 11:1-9; whilst later in Genesis 17:4, Abraham is called to found a nation, under God, through which all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Even at the end of Scripture we discover these two societies are still in conflict with the promise of the final triumph of the Lamb and His people over Babylon.
It is in the knowledge of this conflict that Christians are called to pray for those in civil authority:
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 (NLT)
It is for us a reassurance that Jesus is the only mediator between God and mankind and the only way of salvation. When a political society sets itself up in opposition to the authority of Christ and prioritises the worship of mammon, God will intervene to frustrate its ambitions.
We need to keep this bigger ‘eternal’ picture in mind when assessing recent events. Whilst there are limitations placed on the power of governments, Romans 13:1 reminds us that, “all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” As Mary sang in Luke 1:51-52, it is God who raises up the humble and deposes those who are proud from political authority.
We must therefore pray for our political leaders, for God wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.
Scottish Parliamentary Officer from CARE