So, the soap opera of Brexit continues. Except that it's not a soap opera. As the latest drama unfolds, I've had to remind myself that it's not a drama. It's real people making real decisions that will impact all of us to a greater or lesser extent.
As much as we may want to unplug from the whole sorry situation, our call to be salt and light in the world, means that Christians should resist that temptation. So, let me offer (as much for myself as anyone else) four ways that a Christian might respond distinctively to Brexit.
1. Be prayerful
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
God's desire for us couldn't be clearer: pray for those in authority. Why?
Many of us have to make important decisions day by day. But few of us make decisions that set the direction for so as many people as do our politicians. They have a key role, and they need our prayers.
Even the most avid follower of the news finds it hard to keep up with the complexities of negotiating our exit from the European Union. Now imagine being the one having the steer the whole process. Our politicians not only have a key role, they have an incredibly difficult one, and they need our prayers.
2. Be humble
Have you been in a political conversation over the past months where you have expressed a sentiment something like 'what a bunch of idiots'? Sniping at our politicians is always tempting. It's especially tempting when we see their inconsistencies, character-flaws and mistakes magnified by a merciless press.
None of them are perfect. Not only are our politicians sinful human beings like the rest of us, but they have all of the additional temptations that come with positions of power. Add to that a political system that adds pressure to not only run a country but to gain party-political advantage, and inevitably we end up with a long list of discontents with the whole system.
However, Jesus encourages his people
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
There is certainly a place for criticism and correction. However, it should always start with ourselves.
Do we bemoan the self-interest of the Labour or Conservative party? Have you ever acted out of self-interest?
Do we bemoan the lack of transparency and spin of Westminster? Have you ever been economical with the truth?
Do we bemoan political factions unable to reach agreement? Have you ever found it hard to compromise on firmly held convictions.
Brexit offers a field-day for political satire and mockery. But as Christian believers, let's seek to demonstrate an attitude of humility. Not naivety, but an acknowledgement that in such a situation we would be unlikely to fare any better. We all need God's grace.
3. Be united
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace
It has become commonplace to speak of our divided nation. Indeed Brexit has divided work-colleagues, friends and even families. Sadly it's all too easy for Leave/Remain, to-brexit or not-to-brexit, to create divisions even within churches. A congregation will contain a wide spectrum of (sometimes strongly held) political opinion. It's vital therefore that we do not allow these to create relational barriers and tensions within the church family. We must remember the much more fundamental thing that unites those who trust in Jesus: the Spirit of God. And then we must energetically maintain the unity he has given us.
4. Be compassionate
The middle and upper classes are unlikely to be as drastically affected by whatever form Brexit takes as the less privileged in society. Usually, it is the poor who end up suffering the most in times of economic uncertainty and turbulence.
Those who read the Financial Times and note with interest a predicted slump in the economy, and adjust their share portfolios accordingly, are unlikely to lose their jobs, and usually have long term resources that insulate them from times of economic downturn. None of this is to belittle the anxiety that might result in such times, but rather it is an encouragement for us to remember with compassion those who will lose jobs, and won't have any long term investments to fall back on.
God cares about the poor and marginalised, and Christians should too:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Brexit and all the uncertainty it is creating is an important time to remember this. Let's not allow the political drama to deaden our hearts to showing compassion towards those affected. Organisations such as Christians Against Poverty do a brilliant job at helping those facing financial hardship and are well worth praying for and supporting.
So can I encourage us all to be salt and light in the Brexit dramas? Let's work hard to be prayerful, humble, united and compassionate.