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Ambassadors for Christ and his kingdom

Even if we disagree on party politics, we find Scripture gives us a way to approach our political life, writes Beth Allison-Glenny

Big Ben

“So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us…”
2 Cor 5:20
On the 12th December we are invited, once again, to walk into our local polling station and put a cross in a box.
I wonder how you feel about that?
I wonder if you are intending to make that trip at all?
The phrase ‘politics fatigue’ is one I’ve heard banded about a lot recently, and I can understand why. This will be the fourth time we’ve been invited to vote in the past five years and Brexit of course, has left us divided, or at least, it has shown us the divisions in our society which were already there.
The rhetoric that dominates our debate is especially divisive: politicians are pitched as being ‘versus’ each other, MPs have received huge swathes of hate mail and online abuse, even death threats, and we might find ourselves too easily reaching for vocabulary that declares those with whom we disagree as traitors, or worse.
However, it is my belief, that as people of faith, we have a particular duty to exercise our democratic responsibility and to go about it with compassion and kindness. Or as Paul put it, when he wrote into a divided community like ours, the church should be ambassadors for Christ and his kingdom.
I’m not here to tell you who to vote for, but I do think the gospel has a political edge - and that even if we disagree on party politics, we find Scripture gives us a way to approach our political life.
After all, the Romans didn’t kill Jesus for his message about loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself, they killed him for being the king of the Jews; they killed early Christians because they declared Jesus was Lord, not Caesar. The word those early Christians decided to use for church was ekklesia, the Greek word for the democratic assembly you had to attend if you were a (male) citizen. So here’s the church, in its infancy, saying that they are going to be somehow political as they help usher in the kingdom of God.
When Paul says be Christ’s ambassador, he means precisely that: be a diplomat in the cause of the gospel; advocate for our monarch’s concerns in a foreign climate. We will sometimes need to challenge the government we are posted to, we will need to be articulate in the language and culture we are placed in, we will need to forge good relationships and make allies in order to advance the interests of Christ’s kingdom. At the very least, we will need to vote in a way which we have prayed about.
And secondly, it means we need to approach politics with a particular agenda: the cause of our God, Paul says, is reconciliation. God is reconciling the world to Himself, and gives us this ministry in turn.
A ministry of reconciliation will include thinking about others as we decide who to vote for and helping those who are marginalised in our society find a voice and influence. It will mean helping opposing sides find a deep and lasting peace. It will mean being compassionate and kind with our language. It will mean listening to those who disagree with us, and loving them just as much as we love ourselves. It will mean voting for their flourishing, just as much as we vote for our own. It will mean considering how God wants us to use our vote to make the world more Christlike.
On the date of the General Election, we will be drawing a cross, the very sign of our faith in a box on a ballot paper. That symbol of a cross also represents all that God does to reconcile the world to himself. So we can face whatever political landscape we are placed in, with an eternal hope, as we know that we do not go in our own strength, but inspired by the God who loves us so much he gave everything to be with us.

Beth Allison-Glenny is the Baptists Together Public Issues Enabler.

Our Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) has produced policy briefings  a range of resources to help you prepare for this election. Visit jointpublicissues.org.uk/general-election-2019/

Follow JPIT on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. The JPIT conference takes place on 7 March 2020, and will explore faith, economy and the climate. 

This blog has been adapted from a script delivered on BBC Radio Oxford 

Image | Clever Visuals | Unsplash

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Baptist Times, 26/11/2019
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