That was what Ben Elton, the left-wing comic use to say when his comedy went into those areas during the Thatcher years. Maybe you feel like we have had a whole of politics and at the moment you feel just like Brenda from Bristol.
But whether you feel like Brenda or you will be staying up late next Thursday to see the outcome of the general election how can we act, pray and vote at this time. Maybe this short article might help.
What is it that we understand from the word ‘unity’? What is unity? It’s not the same as uniformity, being the same, so what does it mean?
Well, let’s go back a step. What is a unit? We use the term in all kinds of different ways. We use it in maths – you might remember learning to add up units, tens, and hundreds in the classroom, depending on how long ago you went to school. The military talk about units. A group of soldiers on the same team, living in the same place, get referred to as a unit. Ikea will sell you all kinds of units and give you instructions on how to assemble them at home. You can rent a unit, meaning a flat or apartment in a bigger building.
Couples or families sometimes get described as a unit. They are individuals but somehow they have this togetherness that also makes them some kind of joint entity or team. Describing disparate parts as making up a unit conveys a sense of togetherness, oneness, that they are not just independent parts, they also form something bigger. It’s not that they lose the sense of being something distinct, but they also function in this added way as a part of something else. Something bigger. And ‘unity’ is the term given to describe that state of harmony. So let’s think back over some of those meanings of unit and think about how ‘unity’ is displayed amongst the different parts – and how it makes a difference.
At the heart of our faith is a unit of three persons, The Trinity. In the Bible, God is revealed as Father, Son, Spirit. The Trinity is the model of a perfect unit, and the relationship that the three of them share was even depicted by the early Church Fathers as a dance – known as perichoresis. It’s a powerful picture of being in step and in tune with one another, sharing a rhythm and a sense of movement.
But what does unity mean when it comes to the church, to God’s people. We get a sense of its importance from the Old Testament. Psalm 133 talks about unity as something beautiful to which God’s people should aspire. The whole psalm is dedicated to this one idea that when God’s people live in unity together it is a profound joy and blessing to everyone. The psalmist uses images of oil and dew pouring out over everyone, these beautiful, life-giving liquids that cannot be contained.
In the New Testament, the theme of unity is presented in both theological and practical terms. Paul famously wrote to the church in Philippi, in the second chapter of his letter:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Phil 2:1-2)
It is assumed that through our faith in Jesus we have been united to him in a profound way, and Paul urged us that if this is really true, if we have experienced his love, then it must lead to a practical unity with other believers which is described in terms of having one mind and one spirit. Does this mean that Paul is urging us to have all the same opinions as every other Christian, to embrace a uniformity of perspective on everything? Is that what any of us have experienced in the church? Christians have always
had things that they disagree with one another about – you can see that in the New Testament as well as in today’s church – and Christians join different political parties!
So what else might it mean to share the same love, being one in spirit and mind? It means that we are filled with the same spirit, God’s Holy Spirit, and perhaps this means that we affirm and recognise that in one another even when we disagree. It means that we are held together by our love for Jesus and our complete trust in him as the source of our salvation. It might mean that these things that unite us are more important than the things we disagree about and that we hold in mind this unity, this togetherness in the face of anything else?
Different Christians will each have different political ideas and vote accordingly. They will join different parties and some will stand for election for different, opposing, parties. They all need our prayers, whether we agree with their political ideas or not.
The ability to disagree on secondary matters within a context of unity around primary matters is priceless. The media are constantly looking for spats and points of contention between different camps within political parties, as they make for good headlines. Christians are called to be humble towards each other, realising we are all sinners prone to pride. How we discuss and debate political matters is more important than the outcome.
Good disagreement is rarely fostered outside the context of good relationships. When we don’t know each other we judge each other. We need to intentionally build relationships with those whom we may disagree. And that takes time and effort. And humility.
Ephesians 1v10 says that ‘when the times reach their fulfilment, God will bring unity to all things in heaven and earth under Christ’. The New Creation (Revelation 21 and 22) will usher in an eternal age of perfect cosmic, and societal, unity. What a beautiful hope that we have. We cannot force unity, but God is bringing it about as he works to restore and redeem the whole creation. Until then, as C S Lewis notes: ‘democracy is not food, it is medicine’ – it is not ideal, but necessary to manage society in a fallen context.
Debate is part of democracy, and disagreements over ideas and policy are inherent, but they all must be understood in the context of the great, perfectly united, eternal future that God has for his people in glory.
Please watch the video below and as you vote please be praying for our political leaders and for us as a country that wherever we find ourselves on 13 December the church will bring healing to this nation through the love of God.
If you are interested in understanding more about where our candidates stand then why not go along to local hustings. Here are the details.
Please also use this prayer over the coming days.
- God of all Government,
- Send workers into the harvest field of political life.
- Call your people.
- Not simply those who pay you lip service,
- But those who hear your voice and know your name,
- Those who will not serve two masters,
- Those who will choose kingdom over tribe,
- Those who are not ashamed of the gospel,
- Those who will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
- Those who will seek justice,
- Encourage the oppressed,
- defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow,
- Those who will seek to reconcile more than separate,
- Those who will seek to co-operate more than compete.
- Those who do not despise the day of small beginnings,
- Those who pray your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Those who will choose your glory over self-promotion,
- Those who will choose truth over expediency,
- Those who will listen to the still, small voice more than the megaphone of the media,
- Those who will care for the least of these, rather than genuflect to the greatest,
- Those who find their identity and security in their divine election more than their election by us
- Those whose citizenship is in heaven, and whose primary allegiance is to another King
- Those who know your grace for their failings.
- Call-out an army that will march on its knees in humility
- To fight not just with the weapons of this world
- But the invisible ammunition of your Kingdom. Amen