Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Some thoughts on government & voting

Someone once said: “Anyone who says they are not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water.” Perhaps that sense of drowning will be your motive to vote on 6 May! As Christians however, there are more positive reasons to vote, and much wisdom to guide us.

Writing under the oppression of Roman government, the early church leader, Paul, was still able to write that “the authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13v2). A number of points follow in what he goes on to say:

1) Whatever its failings and whatever uncertainties we may have as to God’s purpose, God’s divine hand lies behind the human processes that bring a government to power. This gives us a particular responsibility to vote, as in our country God has instituted a system in which we get to play a part.

2) Government is to serve God. Psalm 2 famously calls the rulers of the nations to “kiss the Son.” At Easter we remembered that Jesus was raised from death as proof that he is God’s special King, his ultimate ruler. This certainly has a personal impact on us. But it also has a political one: Governments are accountable to him.

3) Government is therefore established to do good. This is the essence of its task. It is accountable for the degree to which it shapes policy in conformity with God’s ways as revealed in the Bible. So the good of others, rather than that of ourselves, should be the decider on who we vote for. And although we want to see policy that will uphold personal morality and the sanctity of life, we should also consider the degree to which a party will seek to alleviate oppression here and abroad, constraining consumerism, limiting global warming, and helping to release people from poverty.

4) Government has a particular responsibility to protect God’s church. This is a further consideration that is increasingly important at a time when Christian freedom (and that of other religions) to live and speak according to conscience seems to be under threat. So in the New Testament Christians are urged to pray for governing authorities, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2v2).

5) Government should be respected and submitted to, for to do otherwise is to rebel against what God has instituted. Christians have traditionally been some of the most law-abiding citizens. They may think a tax or law is unnecessary or unwise, but, unless it requires them to do what God forbids, they should willingly pay and obey nevertheless. Moreover, Christians should act respectfully towards those God has called to govern. It is a noble and hard task. When we do feel the need to offer critique, we should therefore do it humbly and graciously. And we should surely seek to encourage the good just as much.

In the light of all this, as we enter May, give God thanks for all that has been good in the previous government: for the MPs who have acted with integrity, for the policies that have truly benefited others. And let’s pray too, that our next government would fulfill its responsibilities well.