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Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus broke down all of the barriers that divide us and that includes political ones. The gospel is incredibly radical and it is the only hope for a divided nation – but we have to be prepared to model that hope.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but there will be a general election in the UK in the next few days.

I think that for many Brits, their reaction is captured by this wonderful video of “Brenda from Bristol” which was filmed when the last election was announced.

However, not everyone is as despairing as Brenda and there are those who are highly motivated politically and see the election as an opportunity to advance their agenda. This is all well and good, it’s what elections are for, after all. The problem is, that British politics is becoming increasingly nasty. Let me give a few examples:

A huge amount of political rhetoric is negative. Parties hardly longer try and sell their own vision of the future, they simply send out dire warnings of what would happen if we voted for the other lot. This election is all about stopping Corbyn or getting rid of the Tories. I realise that negative campaigning has always happened, but it has reached unprecedented levels. Multiplied by the echo chamber that is social media, the election is getting increasingly nasty and the country becoming more divided. Without even delving into the murky waters of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the levels of invective and hatred are quite staggering at times.

I suspect that once the election is over, things will calm down and we’ll sort of muddle along as a society until something else (another election?) happens to blow things up again at which point the anger will come back to the surface with increased ferocity. To be honest, I fear that we are caught in a rather unpleasant spiral as opinions become more polarised and less nuanced. Complex, negotiated solutions to our problems are rejected in favour of easy sound bites which breed cynicism, distrust and division and it’s only going to get worse. I’m not sure where it will all end, but it may not be pretty.

Christians cannot stand aloof from these things. Those of us who have strong political opinions have to learn to express them without belittling or insulting those who see things differently. We have a deeper loyalty than our party convictions and next Sunday we will have to break bread with people of very different opinions. It’s hard to do that honestly if we’ve been insulting them for their political views this week. Those of us who are floating voters cannot afford to ignore the election either. The government is important and we are commanded to pray for it – at this point, this means praying for the British electorate that we will make wise choices.

Christians have a deeper loyalty than politics. We break bread with people of very different opinions. It's hard to do that if we've been insulting them for their political views this week. Click To Tweet

The New Testament presents the church as a united multi-lingual, multi-cultural entity, but that unity was hard-won and difficult to maintain. In the same sense, the church is a place where Labour Conservative, Lib-Dem, Green, SNP and Plaid should be able to meet and break bread together. It’s not easy, but we are called to make peace and to model peace for a broken world. Simply ignoring our divisions and pretending they don’t exist is probably the easiest way forward, but it doesn’t do anyone any favours. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus broke down all of the barriers that divide us and that includes political ones. The gospel is incredibly radical and it is the only hope for a divided nation – but we have to be prepared to model that hope.

4 replies on “Blessed Are the Peacemakers”

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … and the government will be on his shoulders.
Praise God!

Could you explain more why Christians cannot ignore the election? We are certainly commanded to pray for the government (1 Tim. 2), to be subject to governors, and to honor them (1 Pet. 2). And Christians are certainly free to be actively involved in government, either by voting or taking office should they have the opportunity. Why is it, though, that you say that Christians “cannot stand aloof from these things”? Isn’t being apolitical one valid option (among several valid options) for Christians who, for conscience’s sake, choose not to or cannot take a definitive political view, but would rather choose to lead a peaceful and quiet life? Isn’t being apolitical one way (but certainly not the only way) to express love for God and neighbor?

We cannot stand aloof from these things because our nation is being convulsed by them. People are frustrated, divided and angry and we, as Christians, are called to serve them and be peacemakers. This does not mean that we have to be politically active or even that we should vote (though as you say, these are valid options). However, we do have to engage with people in the context in which we find them.

I think I agree with what you’re saying, although I’d like to say it differently. We should of course engage with people, as you say. And some of the current issues include deeply divided opinions and worse, an unwillingness or inability to listen well to other people. If we want to love people well, we need to be able to engage them regarding these kinds of issues. On this point, I totally agree.

However, there were two statements in the original blog post where the wording might convey something a bit different from engaging with and loving people. “We cannot stand aloof from these things”, at least to my ears, conveyed a strong suggestion to be engaged not only with people, but also with political issues. I’m happy to see in your comment that this does not mean we all have to be politically active.

Also, you had written, “Those of us who are floating voters cannot afford to ignore the election either.” I mistakenly thought that this meant that we should all vote. Again, your comment helped me understand what you really meant. Thank you for the clarification.

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