How do we pray for our Government in the UK in this time of real crisis? Decisions have to be made about Brexit and it is not clear at the moment how there can be a consensus for any agreement or non-agreement with the EU. We need good leadership from all key politicians.
When Jesus began his preaching ministry, his message was summed up in one short sentence. “Repent, because God’s kingdom is here!” Or, “Change, because the government of God is breaking in.” Later his ministry changed, with the emphasis not on preaching to crowds but intensive disciple-making with the disciples. But the key message remained the same - repent because there is a new order breaking into the old.
Ever since, the relationship between the church and the government has been a difficult one to work out. At the risk of over simplifying, there are three main approaches in church history:
1. One is that ‘government is evil.’ When persecuted by the Roman state, it was easy for Christians in New Testament times and since to reject all human government. Some were so glad to be free as Christians that they were in danger of scorning authority and bringing the gospel into disrepute! So Paul and Peter both instructed the church to respect human leaders (Romans 13 and Peter 2:13-17, though these passages are not the whole story in the New Testament on how we relate with the state).
2. Another is that ‘government is how to get things done so we need to influence it.’ It is a common approach among Christians in the USA today, many of whom will tolerate bad behaviour from the President as long as legislation favouring their views can be passed. This was the approach much of the church took in the century after the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian. Tragically, during the 4th Century Christians went from being persecuted to being persecutors. The church became polluted by power and overwhelmed by worldliness. We face the same danger today if we rely on human government to bring in the Kingdom of God.
3. The best approach is that ‘government can be made better’ through the prayer and witness of the church. It is also a more difficult path to follow!
In Phil 1:27 to 2:18, Paul urges the church to live as good citizens among the people around them. Where the Romans valued strength Christians need to display the humility of Jesus. It is a radical, revolutionary gospel message that in weakness we are truly strong!
So what do we do now the political leadership in the UK is fragmented?
Of course, first of all we pray for our leaders whether or not we voted for them and even if we do not agree with them (1 Tim 2:1-4). But we also need to demonstrate by our lives what good citizenship looks like - humility and service,.
It may be that the most valuable thing we as Christians can do is demonstrate how to disagree well, with honour and respect for those we are seeking to persuade to think and act differently. If we demonstrate it, we earn the right to speak about it. If leaders can disagree well they build relationship not destroy it. That means they can build a consensus.