How to Love Your Political NeighbourTom Bray - 5 Feb 2019
Recently, I helped on a stall at a UK conference promoting Christians in Politics; an organisation with a call to encourage Christians to engage and influence the political atmosphere.
But as I chatted to people over the weekend, I noticed a common frown often spread across the faces of those I spoke with...
“Ah, yes, I have heard of Christians in Politics...”
“Isn’t all of this politics stuff a mess?”
My response was mostly agreement.
Recently in the UK, our public servants have been branded traitors in newspapers. They have been shouted down over differing opinions. And, in 2016 our nation mourned the loss of a politician who was killed in the street because of her role.
Politics being a mess could be an understatement.
However, as the weekend progressed and I tried to think of what a “Christian” response to UK politics might be, I started to sense the whisper of God.
Yes, the political world is messy; it is factional, partisan, and confrontational. Yes, there is plenty that I read each day that I find upsetting. Yes, I am arrogant enough to believe my views and my side might deal with it better.
But isn’t God calling us to something more?
Isn’t God calling us to a revolution in relationship?
As Christians, armed with prayer, filled with the spirit, shouldn’t we be able to clear up some of the ‘mess’?
Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you...”
There are so many times that I read the words of Jesus and I gulp.
I’m not sure I would use Jesus’ language to talk about my political foes; I don’t think I have enemies; and I am blessed to not live in an environment of persecution. However, Jesus is asking us to see confrontation completely differently.
To see the good in those we disagree with. To be angry, upset and treated unfairly – but to respond with prayer.
At the conference, I began to ask those who came to our stand, “When was the last time you wrote to your local politician?”
The answer would often be, “Oh, I wrote about the lack of help we’ve offered to refugees.” ,“I wrote about the under-funding of schools and our health system”, “the price and quality of public transport...”
I replied by praising them for their engagement, before I continued,
"When was the last time you asked your local politician how they were? When did you ask them what you could pray for; when was the last time you thanked them for their service?”
The answer was usually, “Ah, good point.”
As followers of Christ we are called to be salt and light, to turn situations on their head with goodness, kindness and hope.
My dream is of a political system where our public servants are encouraged, built up, treated with grace, patience and kindness. Imagine how the atmosphere might change if one of us in each church in the country decided to bless rather than curse. Imagine the political conversation full of praise before blame.
I wonder how the everyday political conversation might change if we had a spirit of blessing over politics?
What might happen if we were able to love our political foes?
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