As you all know, this week our country faces an extremely important vote regarding our membership of the European Union. Unlike our national elections, where we get another shot after four years, this vote is quite possibly a once in a lifetime vote.
All of us have been bombarded with campaigning from both the Remain and the Leave groups. Both sides have wheeled out their ‘experts’ with strong arguments and lots of statistics. Both sides have at times sounded very convincing. Sadly, both sides have also used ‘fear’ as a major weapon in their campaigns. Both sides have used, on balance, quite a negative approach in attempting to win us over.
Be that as it may, we still need to make our choice on Thursday.
I would like to make a couple of charges to us as a church:
1) Use your privilege
Please use the privilege you have to vote. No system of government is perfect, but having a say, through voting, in the future direction of our country is a privilege. I grew up in a country where that privilege was denied to the vast majority of citizens for far too many years. Although not everyone is eligible to vote in this referendum, if you are, then please vote.
2) Remember your ‘first citizenship’
We must remember that we are first and foremost ‘citizens of heaven’ (Phil 3:20). This does not undermine our earthly citizenship, but actually enhances it. We should be a blessing as national citizens because we are citizens of heaven and live (hopefully) with a spiritual perspective, from heaven to earth. The message of the faith we hold to should ring louder in our hearts than the message of our political affiliations and national aspirations. Again, these are important, but they are informed and guided by our faith and not the other way around. That message produces in us such virtues as sacrifice, generosity, vision beyond self-interest, suffering for others, and helping the helpless.
3) Fear is not your friend.
We cannot be motivated by fear. Living in fear and acting from that place generally does not produce good things. Worry or fretting only lead to evil (Psalm 37:8).
4) Check your heart.
Psalm 139 says “…Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way…”. What is in our hearts that is motivating us to vote to leave or to remain?” 24
5) Seek unity
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:3). In those final discussions before the vote and in the period of time after the vote, unity between brothers and sisters in Jesus is essential. Unity is the not the same as political agreement. We are united under one head – Jesus, and we have keen given one Spirit. Some will be disappointed with the result and others will be thrilled. Some may be worried and fearful. Our church community is very diverse in terms of nationalities. For example, there are some in our worshipping community who are genuinely worried for their own future should the UK vote to leave the EU. Alternatively, there will be others who may be extremely disappointed should the UK vote to stay within the EU. In both cases, surely love will compel us to reach out to one another.
Lastly, and very importantly, pray. Pray for wisdom and discernment as you exercise the privilege of voting. There are some of you who may not be eligible to vote. I would ask that you too pray for God to oversee this referendum and give wisdom and discernment to all those casting a vote.
Psalm 22:28 reminds us that dominion belongs to the Lord and that he rules over the nations. Our partnering with him, while meaningful, real and effective, all happens within his sovereign rule. He says: “…I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: ‘My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please…” (Isaiah 46:10). Amen to that!
Much love Nick