Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How To Have A Christian Voice

There are no two subjects more likely to evoke controversy in social dialogue than religion and politics.  Put the two together and you have a melting pot of diverse values provoking divisive ideologies.  Express these ideas in an election campaign and everybody loses their minds!

As a Christian minister, blogger and social media junkie, I take a keen interest in the social commentary involving Christian values and how this is expressed in the current political climate. What interests me more are the polarised views from liberal and conservative Christians who seek to represent a biblical worldview.  On issues of morality and social justice the "Christian" voice is far from united and can leave you wondering whether we are reading the same Bible?!  Added to this disunity, is the lack of respect for each other that sadly all too often manifests itself in a less than godly manner!  I shudder to think of the implications to our Christian witness in a world that needs little reason to reject Christianity, let alone the impact upon our influence in the political arena.

Does this mean Christians should keep out of politics? Not at all!  To suggest that religion and politics are mutually exclusive is naive and misinformed.  Whether or not one professes a religious association, we all hold a set of beliefs that inform the way in which we engage in society.  In anthropological terms we call this a 'worldview'.  It is nonsensical to suggest a worldview has no place in the world where it is derived.  From a biblical point of view, God raised up prophets to speak to leaders of nations, took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to establish a new kingdom order and commissioned the church to share and integrate the values of His kingdom.  There is a clear biblical mandate for Christians to have a voice in society, but who or what informs that voice?  And just as importantly, how should that voice be expressed?  

The simplistic answer to the 'who' is Jesus Christ, the 'what' being the Bible, and the 'how' with love.  Ironically, the majority of liberal and conservative Christians alike would agree, yet the end message still remains worlds apart from each other.  As a Christian who endeavours to maintain a posture of grace and truth, I find this immensely frustrating, especially when Scripture is distorted to validate a personal, political or popular opinion. How then do we have an effective public voice?

Far from attempting to offer an authoritative or comprehensive answer to such a complex question, I think the following principles would go a long way towards reframing and reforming a Christian voice in society:

  • Foundation of Scripture:  Accept the full counsel of Scripture not just conveniently selected passages to support an idea that conforms to your own image of God.
  • Lordship of Jesus Christ:  Submit to God's pattern and design for humankind, as revealed through the character, teaching and ministry of Jesus.
  • Values of the Kingdom:  Uphold counter-cultural biblical values in a manner that fosters respectful relationships with those who have an alternative worldview.
  • Posture of Grace & Truth:  Pursue an incarnational posture of humility and holiness where grace and truth recalibrates the centre of Christian faith.

The links attached to each of the above principles provides further insight to how we can restore the integrity of our Christian voice (please take the time to read my expanded thoughts on each of these principles).  

Furthermore, Jesus earnestly prayed, "that they may be one as we are that they may be brought to complete unity" (John 17:22-23).  Holy Spirit came upon the disciples when "they were all with one accord" (Acts 2:1).  Paul exhorted the church to "equip God's that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:12-13) and speaks against divisions among leaders in the church, "I appeal to you...that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought" (1 Corinthians 1:10) - If ever there is a time for a unified Christian voice, it is now!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Election Reflection

On Saturday, 2nd July Australians are going to the polls to vote in our federal election. Throughout the weeks leading up to this election we have been subjected to aggressive political campaigns by both major parties and relentless lobbying by many of the minor parties, each vying for our vote. Promises and counter promises, scare campaigns, character attacks and questions about leadership competence are tactics that have been employed by all sides of politics; but to what effect?

This election has been coined as the most significant in a generation with contentious issues like border protection, safe schools and same sex marriage poised to challenge the social landscape in our country.  That's not forgetting critical issues like education, economics and health care!

As a conscientious Australian over the age of 18 I join with approximately 16.5 million other eligible voters to decide which party is best suited to lead our nation for the next four years.  The question of who should get my vote is complicated and has provoked a lot of considered thought, because I want my vote to count.  This is the same sentiment I observe from many others on social media.  However, there are those who don't see the point or don't know what to do given the options.  While I have never sought to influence 'who' anybody should vote for, I offer 'how' I will be voting as a possible framework for those who are struggling to figure out how to use their vote.  

  • Do I trust either major party to lead with an absolute majority?
  • Which minor party aligns closest with my worldview and values?
  • Whose preferences will provide the best balance of power in parliament according to my worldview?
  • Whose influence will keep the government accountable to the values I want represented in parliament?

From my perspective, if there is dissatisfaction with both major parties, then the minor parties are not a wasted vote.  At this stage in our history none of them will hold power, but they can exert quite a lot of influence in the way our country is governed.  Minor parties and independents who win a seat in parliament contribute to the total number of seats required to pass any legislation presented by the government.  Although neither major party want to govern in this way, maybe it is necessary until we have a government who will actually lead and not just play politics.  

Which ever way you choose to vote, please don't allow disillusionment to discourage you from believing that you really can make a difference.  Make your vote count!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

LifeLines #7

Feeling depressed, anxious or stressed?  

LifeLines offers biblical wisdom as a source of HOPE for today and tomorrow.



Do not worry about your life...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.   Matthew 6:25,33

To say that we live in uncertain times would be an understatement!   Whether it's an election campaign that has huge national consequences, economic instability that leaves your family feeling vulnerable, or serious illness that challenges your own mortality; there seems to be plenty to be worried about.  While acknowledging this reality, Pastor Dan Lian made an insightful observation about Jesus words:  "Worry, stress or anxiety is not fundamentally a fear issue but a focus issue."  When we focus on all that is wrong in the world or in our lives, it can consume or cripple us.  But when we "seek first (God's) kingdom" our focus shifts from what we cannot control onto the One who is ultimately in control. Shifting our focus onto God's kingdom provides us with a vision of a different reality and gives us confidence to pursue it in the here and now.