A different kind of election- Part 2
Unlike Ed Milliband’s followers on 8th May, the despair of Jesus’s disciples after his defeat was very soon transformed to joy. Starting with the women, they saw Jesus literally come back from the dead, walking out of his grave, notwithstanding the huge stone and the roman soldiers guarding it (Matthew 28 v 1-10) (And many believe leaving his impression on his burial shroud currently residing in Turin). That’s a bit too much to believe isn’t it? Well even some of the disciples found it hard to believe it at first. Thomas wouldn’t until he’d actually touched Jesus’s wounds. (John 20 v 24-29). Others were only convinced when they saw Jesus eat some barbequed fish. (Luke 24 v 26-45).
Jesus didn’t hang around too long with his disciples though. In a short time he’d ascended back into heaven. (Luke 24 v 50-51). (The traditional Christian calendar recently celebrated that event as Ascension Day). And although he left them, in a way he didn’t leave them, because he gave them a parting gift; his mate, the Holy Spirit, through whom he was spiritually ever present with them (and with his followers even today).(John 14 v 15-21) (This is celebrated by Christians as Pentecost- the Jewish festival of weeks).
But that was not the end of the story. Not by a long way. He had a mission, a manifesto, if you like, that he was going to fulfil- to bring about his heavenly kingdom here on earth; to transform people and society not just in Israel but throughout the whole world. And unlike the manifestos and promises of our politicians which are so often broken, this leader is certain to implement his pledges in full. But it’s a two stage process. Two terms of government if you like. Although it doesn’t feel like it most of the time, we’re actually in the first term right now.
Through his followers his “good news” manifesto is already being implemented here and now. Here in Britain it may seem like his kingdom is now on the wane. However, throughout the world lives are continuing to be transformed by that good news manifesto, bringing forgiveness, healing and a better quality of life with increased love, peace and joy. And yes even politically that “good news” manifesto should and sometimes does have a very positive impact here. Jesus himself in fulfilling the commission of Isaiah described himself as “preaching good news to the poor” and his teaching of love and compassion have inspired many of his followers to drive social reform and justice, especially for the poorest and most disadvantaged. Evangelical Christians like William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury for example were the spearhead for the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century and many of the factory/social reforms of Victorian Britain. And the seeds of the welfare state sown by a Liberal government driven particularly by Lloyd George, whose own politics were forged in the fire of his Baptist Christian faith. And today many Christians inspired by Jesus’s “good news” still campaign for greater social justice through campaigns like Make Poverty History, the Fairtrade movement and Stop the Traffik . Many also reach out to the poor and needy through the work of the Food Banks, Street Pastors, Christians Against Poverty, the Salvation Army, Tear Fund, Christian Aid and so many other missions here and abroad.
Of course, there are many good people with no Christian faith at all who strive to build a fairer, more just society. But even they I would suggest (though they may not recognise it) have probably been in some way touched by Jesus’s “good news” manifesto. His message of “love your neighbour as yourself” still remains a corner stone of our society and (some of) our politics.
So what about his second term? This first term has been going on for nearly 2,000 years! If we’d had a Labour government elected earlier this month I genuinely believe it would have made this country just that little bit fairer, a tiny bit more like Jesus’s kingdom on earth and that could only be a good thing. However -and it’s a big however- the fact is this country and this world would still have remained full of lots of injustice, pain and suffering. It’s just that one small corner of this dark world might have turned a small fraction of a shade lighter. It’s the second term where this world gets really transformed.
And when will the second term of Jesus’s government start? When he physically returns to earth . And when will that be? Unlike the timing of Jesus’s first coming, which many believe was very precisely predicted by Daniel, there is no exact prediction of when he’ll come back. It’s the very question that Jesus’s disciples asked him just before he left them the second time. He promised them that he’d be coming back and bring his kingdom with him. They wanted to know when. A not unreasonable question. Unfortunately they didn’t get answer the answer they were looking for. He told them’ it’s a big secret which only the Father knows, now just get on with your job of sharing my message with the world (Matthew 24 v 36). The bible does say certain things must happen before he returns, in particular that the good news must be preached “to all nations.”(Mark 13 v 10). However it doesn’t say how long the interval will be between such events and Jesus’s return. Peter (a man not exactly known for his own patience) tells us in his letters that it will be “soon” but that God’s “soon” is not quite the same as our “soon”. For to Him “a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years”. (2 Peter 3 v 8). In other words Jesus might come back tomorrow or it might not be for another thousand years.
So what will Jesus’s second term be like? It will be fantastic, amazing and all the other superlatives. Health issues, pain and suffering? A thing of the past. There will be “no more… pain, sorrow or mourning”, for “the old order of things [will have] passed away.” (Revelation 21 v 4 ). Global poverty? At last we will have a ruler who “with justice will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” (Isaiah 11 v 4 ). Education problems? “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11 v 9 ). So an end to the poverty of ignorance too. War and violence? Defeated for good. For He will be “the Prince of Peace” (Revelation 9 v 6) who ensures there will be “no more death” (Revelation 21 v 4) . World peace and complete disarmament ; “ He will… settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares…Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”(Micah 4 v 3). Racism and sectarianism? Abolished. A great multitude of “every nation, tribe, people and language” will unite under him. (Revelation 7 v 9).
So how will this new leader get elected? He won’t. I’m afraid this perfect society won’t be a democracy. So will it be a dictatorship then? Absolutely not. It will be a theocracy. In our sinful world where men’s natural inclination is to exploit other men democracy is our best safeguard against oppression and injustice. However, democracy often gets it “wrong” (As my fellow labour party members would point out- look at who we’ve just elected!). That’s because even in the fairest and most proportionate democracy (which ours certainly isn’t) those electing our rulers and the rulers themselves are fallible sinful human beings. They will make bad mistakes and sometimes catastrophically bad ones. Personally I thought Tony Blair in many ways was a very good Prime Minister but in my view he made a very serious mistake over going to war in Iraq.Far better to have one completely just, compassionate and wise ruler that we can trust always to do the right thing. Sadly, no such person exists, unless …. as Christians believe, Jesus was that one perfect ruler and unless he really is coming back.
To be continued…