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The Christadelphian | June 2016

In the magazine this month:

A sample article from this edition:

Should Christ’s disciples vote?

On June 23 the people of the UK will vote on continued membership of the European Union. This may be exciting prophetically, but Christ’s disciples have no place voting on such occasions.

Whilst on holiday over Easter, I had occasion to view a vacant retail unit in Oban on Scotland’s west coast. The agent had said that I could visit anytime during office hours without appointment, as the current occupant only had a short term lease. It transpired that the occupant was the prospective Scottish Nationalist Party’s (SNP)candidate for the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections. He was using the unit as his campaign base because of its prominent corner position. On entering his face lit up and he jumped from his chair, arm extended, even before the door had closed. I explained why I was there and that as a visitor to the area I would not be eligible to vote for him. I also explained why in any case I would not be voting for the SNP, or for any other party for that matter. His grin subsided as he muttered, “Well, I guess not losing a vote to the opposition is as good as winning one”, and then left me to my business.

By the time this article is printed the results of the Scottish Parliamentary elections will be known, and the outcome will no doubt influence the Scottish Government’s opinion on the line to take regarding the UK’s European Referendum on June 23.

This interaction with the SNP candidate, and a subsequent discussion with a neighbour (also an activist for the SNP) reaffirmed my reasons for not voting, yet got me thinking about how involved we should be in our discussions on political matters, especially those that have a potential scriptural bias. For example, if we could satisfy ourselves from scripture whether the UK will be in or out of the European Union at our Lord’s return, then should we express this view, and should we consider voting accordingly? If we do this, are we then in danger of ‘second guessing’ the plan our heavenly Father has in place and how He is going to bring it about?

Good citizens

Undoubtedly we have obligations to the country in which we sojourn, for we read:

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (1 Peter 2:13,14)

Would exercising our vote in the EU referendum therefore be an opportunity to show this allegiance? Or, is the judgement to be exercised by us one of discerning between the obligations we have to the state and those reserved to God and His power and authority?

“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.” (Matthew 22:18-22)

Earlier when God selected a people for Himself, providing them with the land of Israel, He gave them priests to direct worship, Levites to teach, judges to administer justice and kings to rule. But it was not a democracy. God was still the overall authority. He imposed His law on His people and He expected them to obey. By the time Jesus was born that land was then part of the Roman Empire and the subjugated Jews yearned to be free from their control. But at no time did Jesus encourage his followers to rebel or rise up against the ruling powers in order to restore the kingdom.

Although in the world, Jesus and his disciples were not to be of the world. Thus they were in effect sojourners – temporary residents – because the kingdom that God had promised to give to Jesus was “not of this world”; or “then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (John 18:36). This situation did not change when Jesus had been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. His followers – both Jews and Gentiles – were not to meddle in politics or concern themselves with the ruling powers. Their primary concern was the preaching of the Gospel, the good news of the coming kingdom of God and the hope of everlasting life; and so it is for us today.

God rules

Although as followers of Christ we live in a world controlled by men and women who care nothing for the laws of God, we recognise that all authority given to man ultimately comes from God. It is He who “ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:32). So it is our duty to subject ourselves to these ruling powers, to keep the laws of the land and to pay our taxes (Romans 13:1-7) but, if there is a conflict of loyalties, “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

To the disciple, Jesus is King and any involvement in the politics of this world is incompatible with a belief in Christ’s return and the allegiance we owe to him, even now in this life. That does not mean to say that we should not be concerned about the difficulties faced by our fellows. We cannot help but be affected by these things, but it is not the disciple’s prerogative to address the social, economic and political problems faced by man – as the Apostle Paul writes: “Our conversation (citizenship, RV) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

We are under constant pressure to conform to the things of the world, to have and express an opinion on the ‘issues of the day’, but –

“Remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13)

The challenge is to set ourselves apart from such ‘wordly’ issues, and to look for the fulfilment of God’s plan and purpose by His hand; to live as far as is practicable as temporary residents, even though that may be difficult at times, and always be looking for our true land and King, to which and by whom we have been called.

“If then ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1,2)

Stephen Dawson-Bowman

 

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