Even though I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet (to quote from Amos 7), nor am I like one of the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what the people of God should do in perilous circumstances (I Chronicles 12), I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I really sense the need to carefully think through the implications of our recent election in Northern Ireland, and its ongoing dramatic aftermath.
There is a deep mine of facts and figures which are being used to underpin very different political stances and decisions – even in spite of the warning attributed to Disraeli that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’. Opinions, arguments and analyses abound. However, there are very few modern day ‘sons’ of Issachar to help God’s people (or indeed wider society) actually understand our times. This inevitably means that guidance, based on Biblical and Christian understanding is almost non-existent. That troubles me greatly.
I am offering some starting points for developing a Christian response.
The first is that we are all fallen people living in a fallen world. Therefore, almost by definition, there is no guarantee at all of a perfect or maybe even a fairly good way ahead. There are downsides and unforeseen consequences built into every option and every opinion. Humility is to be sought, and valued.
Secondly, what has become known as ‘common grace’ is also to be acknowledged. This is the favour and grace of God that he makes available to every member of the human race. (E.g. Matthew 5.44) Therefore, even though we are all fallen people, we still receive blessing from God. He is most assuredly not absent from everyday life and decisions, including political ones.
Thirdly, it is crucially important to affirm that doing what is right uplifts a nation, whilst doing what is wrong drags it down. (Proverbs 14.34) We must never allow politics to be thought of or seen as a morality free zone. Whilst there is plenty of scope to debate and even disagree over what is morally and ethically right, even that debate must shaped by the need to love our neighbour well, (including our political adversary) as an outworking of our own love for the Lord. It is very hard to see any Biblical justification for supporting any brand of politics based on ourselves alone.
Finally, it is important to recognise the Biblical truth that nations rise and nations fall – that there can be no presupposition that Almighty God intends our land, or any land, to remain as it was or is. Job 12 is a sobering reminder of just how fragile nations and their leaders really are.
So, where might such principles lead us? A few pointers to help us get started.
Few of us see ourselves as prophets, yet we are all electors, and can make clear, Biblically informed political choices.
We may have no special insights to the times in which we live, yet each of us is called to “ let our little light shine” as Christian believers.
We may not be in a position to make big decisions about our land, yet we can talk easily in prayer with the sovereign God of the nations.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have an identity in Christ that transcends politics, and that delivers us from fear and panic about the future of this land. For that deliverance, we can, indeed should, be profoundly grateful.
Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton is a retired Presbyterian minister, former Moderator of the General Assembly, and Chair of Contemporary Christianity.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.
Thank you for your simply and beautifully expressed invitation to remember the confidence and ultimately the peace to be found in our identity as children of God
Thank you, Norman, for pointing us away from the secular viewpoints of the political commentators. They can and do shine light on the developments of our lifetimes and more recent events and trends. They show the incompetence, inconsistency, short sightedness and self interest of our current and former politicans. I have been depressed by an overdose of Fintan O’Toole lately and needed your corrective. ” The Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.” Daniel 5:21 NIV
A very well set out basis for thought, debate and honest prayer.
While living and working in Kenya I came to see that in much of Africa, the colonial powers and the resident expatriate community failed to accept that inevitably the local majority community should have political control over the affairs of their countries. The colonial governments resisted the inevitable and so failed to prepare the local community as well as possible to look after the political administration of their own countries. The result was that independence came after a period of unrest and ushered in a period of unstable management.
Surely there is a lesson for us in N.Ireland. Do we not now need to encourage the Protestant community to accept the inevitable and begin to work with the Catholic Community to produce a model of what a new Ireland would look like and how it would function politically, economically and socially.
Is there any grouping among the Protestant Community engaged in such an initiative?