This week, Australia has a new Prime Minister and a new Federal Government.
Millions of Australians are happy and excited by what may come about as the result of Saturday’s Federal election. Millions of other Australians will feel disappointed—even angry and concerned—by the political shift. Many other Australians won’t feel anything—they’ve become too despondent about, or disengaged from, politics in Australia.
Hope is found in Christ, not in any political system or party.
Christians too, will follow this pattern. Christians may or may not be favourably disposed toward the new government—and no government can ever fully align with every issue that is concerns Christians. Indeed, we should not expect this to be the case, for it is the church that is God’s centrepiece, not human governments; hope is found in Christ, not in any political system or party. Theonomy is a dangerous and anti-Christian notion, as toxic to healthy pluralism and democracy as hardline secularism.
I do not intend to dig into my own political preferences here, nor to offer any sociological insights into what the election may or may not mean for Australia’s future. The point I wish to make is a simple one—and it ought to be an uncontroversial one—but knowing how polarised and tribal our communities are becoming, I think it is worth saying anyway.
A Timeless Word
The point is this: regardless of how you may feel about the election or your local MP, there is a scriptural principle that remains compulsory for all Christians. And it is this:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—or kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
I was reminded of this timeless word by Justin Moffatt, the Senior Minister at Church Hill in Sydney. He said,
One of the things I like about the prayers in the Anglican Prayer Book is that we always pray for the government of the day, and we pray the same thing no matter who governs. It moves effortlessly from one to the next, as though the problem of the world isn’t government, and the hope of the world were found elsewhere.
Whatever our reaction to the election, Justin is right. This Christian imperative doesn’t necessarily legitimise or contradict how we are feeling about the election outcome, but it ought to remind us of the bigger picture, and it ought to reorient us toward what is eternal and ultimately important. There ought to be a certain constancy, evenness, and repetition that is evident in our churches as we note the changing political landscape.
This Christian imperative ought to remind us of the bigger picture and reorient us toward what is eternal.
Because we have the habit of assuming that we live in the worst of times (or the best), it’s good to remember the plasticity of that view. The Apostle Paul wrote his words at a time when the Roman Empire was expanding and where there was no political freedom and where opposition to Christianity was emboldened—one of the Emperors during Paul’s ministry was Nero! It was not an easy time to confess the lordship of Jesus or belong to a local church. Nonetheless, the Apostle commands the church in Ephesus to pray for those in authority.
The duty of Christians around Australia has not changed. And yes, the language of duty is appropriate. There is a new Prime Minister in the new government, and with that will come all kinds of policies and decisions that will alter the economic and social landscape of the country. Anthony Albanese and his team are taking the helm following a very difficult season in our nation’s country—one, I suspect, that will become more fraught in the days ahead, especially with regard to our relations with China.
Prayer like 1 Timothy 2:1-4 should remind Christians not to over-identify with any single political movement, not to turn political agendas into eschatological hopes. Only the gospel of Christ and God’s mission into the world should animate us to that degree.
It is too easy to be swept up in the political narratives that are preached around the country. As Christians, we need to resist these (or at the very least, temper them) by reminding each other of the lordship of Christ and God’s purposes made clear in the gospel. I am not suggesting that followers of Jesus ignore the political process and not participate (not at all!) As citizens in this democracy, we have the opportunity and responsibility to serve the common good of our nation—which includes political discourse. “Love your neighbour” remains true for us today.
Paul’s command frees us from both the jubilation and the despair that accompanies political change.
But Paul’s command frees us from both the jubilation and the despair that accompanies political change.
When we engage with political issues and offer our advice and opinion, we must do so in a way that honours God’s mission and his character. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into bitter fights that make it look like our real gospel is political. This new government may bring about significant change and a re-ordering of social policy and moral direction—it’s naive to suggest otherwise. But Paul reminds us that we know and pray to God, who is sovereign over all things, including governments and the nations. Our responsibility and opportunity as Christians remain the same: pray for those in authority.
The duty of Christians in Australia has not changed. Let’s commit ourselves before God to pray for our new government and our political representatives. Let’s seek to live quiet and peaceful lives with all holiness. Let’s keep the gospel front and centre in both our hearts and lives and words, because God longs for people to be reconciled to him and come to a knowledge of the truth. Let us not allow our emotions and words to inhibit, disguise, or obscure this good news of God in Jesus Christ.
First published at murraycampbell.net