How do we live, think and pray at a time like this?! What is going on?
In the UK and beyond it feels like empires are falling, foundations are shaking, and fear is spreading.
In living memory we have perhaps never known such governmental instability, widespread anxiety about our future, or such deep anger and cynicism towards those who lead. What to do? How do we even pray?
Well, so helpfully today the Wellspring reading plan leads us to a verse with a timely punch, crystallising how we can respond in times like this:
Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. 1 Peter 2:17 (Click here to read it in context)
Peter, writing in times of political factions, religious division and violent opposition to the new Jesus-movement, gives simple instructions that bring us to the heart of the Gospel. In the end, Christianity is a lot about who we trust and how we love.
Even those we disagree with - about Brexit, Boris, Trump and taxes - respect. The word in Greek means 'assign proper value to' - we are urged as free followers of Christ to honour people as made in God's image. Not because they do things right, but because they are intrinsically valuable in God's eyes. Everyone.
Love the Church:
This is a time when we can celebrate the rich diversity and deep devotion of the people of Christ. To love our 'brother- and sisterhood' as members of a family. Not members of a club, nor observers of a rigid religion. Peter says, love what you share together. Value the Church! I realise today that when we are true to this, no nationality is left outside, we are not a meritocracy where you need a degree to enter or be used by God. Qualified by Jesus' sacrifice, we are now adopted into God's family and this is a permanent arrangement by His grace. I love the Church. I love what we share, and see in this real hope for the world. Not in constitutions or governmental systems (though we may need them) but in the eternal community that includes all who call on Jesus' name. So my brother, my sister: Love the Church!
The early Christians had so much to fear in the Emperors and kings that lorded over them. Their lives were under threat, their families torn apart. Peter says, 'fear God'. His authority is greater. He is the Lord of lords. King of kings. In our prayer and as our focus, when our knees hit the ground our eyes look to Almighty God and we can cry out to him. Our Father in heaven. Hallowed be your name. You are the Boss! We would rather do right by you than anyone else. Your purposes matter most. Your will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven!
Respect your rulers:
Included in the everyone above is the Prime Minister, the Queen, our MPs, Peers and of course High Court judges. Even the President. Respect them? Surely the Greek word Peter used is different and means 'put up with them if you have to' or, 'don't pass on all the memes and jokes you come across that cynically mock them'?! Nope. Same word. Respect them. See their value! Made in God's image, deeply flawed (like you are) and influenced by loads of dark powers (as you are). See their value in God's eyes and respect them. I think I might need to bite my tongue more, unless it's in selfless prayer for those whose burdens I'd hate to carry. Holy Spirit, help me!
As Jesus said when facing Pontius Pilate:
'"My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight... But my Kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36 (Click here to read it in context)
So we will watch and read the news, our feeds and minds will be invaded with sometimes twisted viewpoints, some shady thinking as well as shards of wisdom and light.
In today's turmoil may we hold on to the good, respect everyone because of God's love, trust the King of all nations and celebrate the beauty and wonder of being part of his family.
- Tim Roberts