At the Evangelical Alliance’s council meeting in September Steve Holmes set out the theological basis for Christians engaging in politics, power and public leadership.
In Colossians we read of King Jesus leading the principalities and powers in a victory parade at the cross, and Paul’s imagery is deliberately political. Politics is a spiritual business, seeking to bring the good that Jesus has made possible into the disordered realm of human life. We shouldn’t be surprised that it is hard, but we should rejoice, that because King Jesus has died and rose again, it is possible.
In the run up to the 1997 general election I was a young minister in South London, and the church I was the minister of and some other local churches had arranged a hustings. We were listening to the various candidates talk about various issues, and the issue of Europe came up; as it does in these things. One candidate said there were all sorts of things being said but the fundamental question is: where does ultimate sovereignty lie, is it in Westminster or is it in Brussels.
That sense that there is a collision between language, between ideas, between the power itself, between the religious and the political, between church and the state, between the priest or pastor and the government, is one that pervades. Who gets to have a say, who is in charge, where does power lie? This is at the heart of it.
Jesus is king, Jesus is sovereign, and in the good purposes of King Jesus we have earthly government. We have to be realistic about the repeated failures of all earthly government, they and we are fallen people working in a fallen world. Perfection in government is very far from attainable, just as it is in any other area, if we view political power realistically, which means biblically – the Bible is the best description of reality in these areas – then we will never invest our hopes in earthly government. But we will confess that earthly government does good.
Steve Holmes also wrote on these themes in the November/December issue of idea, the Evangelical Alliance’s magazine.