Summer’s over and it’s back to school/college/uni/wearing trousers (i.e it’s no longer shorts weather- I’m not suggesting I’ve spent all summer in my boxers). However, a few things have changed over the summer. We’ve got a new Prime Minister, England hit new lows in international football and GB hit new highs at the Olympics in Rio. Yet, perhaps the change that will have the greatest impact on our daily lives (yes, even bigger than being knocked out by Iceland) is that of Brexit.
I voted to “remain”. You may have seen the statistics: 64% of 18-24 year olds also voted to “remain”. And it is this younger generation that will have to live the longest in a UK outside of the EU- and that doesn’t even take into account the views of those below 18 who couldn’t vote, but who have longer still.
HOWEVER, I’m not here to talk about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of Brexit because I know faithful Christians who have voted both ways and enough has already been said on that; instead I want to think about what Jesus might do in the wake of Brexit and so ultimately, how we might respond too?
It seems to me that Jesus’ primary concern wasn’t with establishing the “correct” political order. The Christ the Israelites had been anticipating was a political Messiah, a revolutionary leader who would overthrow and free them from the Roman rule that they were living under. Yet, Jesus’ refusal to fit this mould was one of the reasons they rejected Him (some have argued Judas Iscariot was a revolutionary Zealot who betrayed Jesus not out of greed, or to see Him arrested and crucified, but rather out of impatience- to force Jesus’ hand and begin a violent uprising against the authorities).
In the desert we see Jesus being offered all the power and all the kingdoms on earth, yet He refuses them! (Matthew 4:8-10) God was never interested in imposing His Kingdom on us from above with His power. Rather, Jesus shows us that the Kingdom of God is more organic, like a mustard seed or yeast (Matt 13:31-33), that starts small and grows from the bottom-up, as people’s hearts and lives are transformed.
So it is important to remember that our hope is not in the result of this Brexit vote. If you voted “remain” and are feeling devastated, or voted “leave” and are feeling triumphant, we are reminded that actually the Kingdom of God is not determined at this power-structure level, but at the daily, day-in-day-out, face-to face-level level.
Can changing the law or political systems establish the Kingdom of God? I’m sceptical. Not least because the faith of Christians is perhaps at its most alive and most transforming under some of the worst and broken political systems in the world.
This is not to say that as Christians we should be uninterested or detached from politics. We are certainly called to challenge unjust systems that oppress people at the margins of society. But it seems that rather than debating whether the right decision was made, as Christians we should be looking to bring light and grace into the situation we are in. After all, we should literally thank God that He doesn’t refuse to act and work for the good of all things based upon whether He thinks we’ve made the right decision or taken the right action! Our calling as a Church in the wake of Brexit should be about loving others, as God loves us.
This means comforting and assuring those, particularly foreigners, in our country who may feel alien and unwelcomed as a result of the vote, that they are welcome and valued. In doing this we reflect the generous hospitality of the God we worship. It also means showing unity as a Church, even though we may have voted differently. Seeking stronger relationships with those whom we disagree, which means not assuming the worst about people who voted as being ignorant/bigoted or self-righteous/out-of-touch. In seeking this unity in the face of our difference we reflect our God, the Holy Trinity, one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As we see in Jesus and the cross, lasting transformation does not come from a place of strength and power, but out of weakness; as the most-high God made Himself vulnerable and became a servant for us. Jesus, who shunned political authority in favour of spending time with the powerless, reminds us that whatever we believe about Brexit, our real hope for all creation rests in Him.