This week was a milestone for my eldest daughter and I, we both did something we have never done before. We voted. This election was the first election in which I have been eligible to vote, as I only became a South African citizen a couple of years ago after having permanent resident status for a long time and finally getting around to applying for citizenship. I have jokingly said that my political autobiography is going to be titled “A Long Walk to Organisation” However, I have always had a keen interest in political discourse and have followed trends in South Africa, Europe and the USA with great interest for as long as I can remember. There is little doubt that we are living in very interesting times politically. Britain just voted to leave the European Union a continent facing huge challenges. South Africa just went to the polls and as I sit here writing it would appear that something is changing in the “business as usual” approach to our domestic politics. The ANC once dominant everywhere has some soul searching ahead of it, and the DA newly elected in some places will have to step up and deliver on promises made. Then of course, the USA heads to an election that has left many inside and outside of the USA scratching their heads. Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is that seriously the choice ahead of America? Even though I am very interested in politics, I have until now largely refrained from commenting via social media, as I find to misquote Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” one christian can hardly open his mouth without making another despise him. However I thought I would tentatively share some thoughts on the political process provoked by some comments on my Facebook feed and online.
If Hillary Clinton Wins, We are all screwed! So said one of the people on my Facebook. If Trump wins there is a very real possibility of World War 3 apparently one of Trumps previous employees has published this view. If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union it will be the end of British civilisation as we know it. Or here in South Africa, apparently if you do not vote for the ANC you will both incur the wrath of the Ancestors, and quite possibly provoke the second coming. These kind of statements are posted and then Christians weigh in on both sides, and we wrap Jesus in the colours of our party of choice. However I would like to offer some thoughts provoked by another nation, China.
China has for more than a generation now been a nation whose politics have been antagonistic to the gospel and yet this week I saw an article that was originally published in the London Telegraph entitled “China on course to become the world’s “most christian nation” in 15 years” which reveals the incredible growth of the church in that country. I was struck by how, despite the political adversity that our brothers and sisters face in China, the church has not only survived but in fact the church appears to be thriving and it reminded me of a powerful truth.
The Kingdom of God is not a political system, nor is it represented by a particular political party.
I strongly believe in political engagement and I encourage Christians to be involved in and active in the politics of their nations. Just don’t confuse the Kingdom of God with your political party, nor your church, or even “the church”. The Kingdom is bigger than that. It is vital that believers are active and involved in every aspect of our societies and cultures that we continue to be salt and light in the world and that means engaging and connecting with our cultures with love and a Kingdom vision. We are not called to retreat into our Christian Ghetto’s and throw condemning rocks over our high moral walls hoping more people will join us in our heavenly isolation. We are called to permeate the fabric of the world we are sent to with the love and life of God and to reconnect our world with the Heavenly Father, however we will not influence if we are filled with pessimism, criticism and hopelessness. We have to carry Biblical HOPE. We are to bring our hope to politics, rather than derive our hope from politics. We live from the hope of the Kingdom, we don’t hope for the Kingdom. Sometimes the despair and the hope displayed in our political discourse shows that that hope is resting not in God, but in a political party, or in a political program or in the political process. However as the Chinese example shows, (and there are many other examples down through the ages,) often the growth of the Kingdom comes despite the politics of a people not because of it.
The prophet Daniel had a vision of the Kingdom coming in the earth long ago, in the vision he saw kingdoms and empires rising filling the earth, dominating and then falling, disappearing into the mists of time only to be replaced by another world order which would follow the same pattern. In the midst of this there was another Kingdom established, the Kingdom of God which began like a small rock but which grew to become a mighty mountain to fill the whole earth. This Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom.
(ESV Strong’s) his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’
As Christians we must understand that God is bringing his Kingdom in the world and I am fairly confident that if the Kingdom was not stamped out nor diminished by Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Alexander the Great, the Caesars, The Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, Adolph Hitler, Chairman Mao, Stalin and his followers then I am confident that Hillary Clinton has not got heaven in a bind. As for “the Donald” despite his name I don’t think that he is Satan’s end time trump card to doom the world and stop what God has declared to be the destination of history.
(ESV Strong’s) 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever!
No matter which King is ruling on earth, no matter which political party rises to power, no matter which Empire rises or falls God’s Kingdom is coming in the earth. Like yeast spreading through the rising dough the influence of the Kingdom of God is evident for those with eyes to see. What this means for Christians is that we must place our faith and our hope in the right place.Our hope is in God, and in the good news of the Kingdom not in politics, political leaders or parties. I am not calling for a faith that postpones hope to Heaven, but a faith that sees in another realm the hand of God active in the affairs of man, not hindered but in control. Our hope is in Heaven not in the Headlines. Be of good courage, the Kingdom is coming no matter who wins, who loses or which empire is on the stage of the world at the moment. The road of history we travel may be bumpy and painful at times, the view out the window may not always be pleasant but the destination draws nearer every moment. It is not a short journey but when darkness falls on one day and we have to continue our journey through the night, the beam of our headlights probing into obscurity, follow by faith the road ahead because God has already told us where the road leads and a new day will surely dawn. We must travel full of hope that a new day will come, that God’s goodness and kindness will continue throughout every generation, night and day, year after year.
When we begin to live with hope and joy we will see the light of the Kingdom everywhere. Despite ISIS and fundamentalist Islamic terrorism and the religious totalitarianism in many parts of the world the last hundred years have seen more Muslims coming to Jesus than at any time in human history and so beneath the surface of nations once thought lost to the Kingdom churches are springing up and flourishing. Just as the Roman Empire once tried and failed to stem the growth of the Kingdom so the various political ideologies of today will ultimately fail to overcome. Later when the Roman Empire had become “Christian” and then the empire fell and many thought the end of the empire meant the destruction of the church and yet we see that in the ashes of the empire the seeds of the gospel grew and once again flourished, so today the gospel will regrow in the Middle East, in the West or wherever it seems to be on the back foot. The same is true in communist countries (as we see from the Chinese example). Despite a move outwardly towards a growing Hindu fundamentalism on the Indian sub continent a move of God’s spirit is bringing hundreds of thousands into the Kingdom of God. In Africa, once called the dark continent the kingdom is rising, despite challenges of war, poverty and injustice there is good news for those who can see it. The challenges are still huge and real but life expectancy and prosperity continues to rise almost everywhere, and many see a genuine African Renaissance coming. The gospel is flourishing in Africa. Even in Europe where humanism, socialism, affluence and apathy seemed to have rotted the foundations of nations once thought to be Christian a generation of radical believers who have rejected a dead formal religious walk with God for a vibrant and miraculous powerful faith is rising and many churches are once again beginning to fill up as people awaken to the reality that material prosperity cannot provide a cure for existential and spiritual poverty.
Our hope is an everlasting hope, not based on this election or the next. Our Kingdom is an everlasting dominion not constrained by the Empire or power of the day. So rise up and live with love and love living for Jesus has already overcome.