Serving two masters?
In many areas of life the Christian believer finds him/herself in positions of conflicting loyalties; the political battleground is strewn with compromise, capitulation and double standards. How should believers behave?
Around a decade ago I received a telephone call very early on Sunday morning. It was unusual for the ’phone to ring at that time and I answered the call quickly – thinking perhaps it was a problem with a family member or some other emergency. In fact the call was from a Christian friend (let’s call him James) who was a leading member and official within one of the mainstream UK political parties.
The occasion of the call was during the annual conference of that particular party and James was due to speak to the assembled party leaders, officials and members later that morning. But James was in turmoil.
He explained the situation of finding himself and his Christian conscience in conflict with a particular, but very important part of the party’s policies and manifesto. James realised that he had a choice to make that day: he either had to speak to the gathering in terms of his Christian convictions or, alternatively toe the party line – hence his call seeking counsel and prayer. James explained – and by this time his words were punctuated by deep sobs – that if he were to speak out what he truly believed then his career and years of work (and quiet witness) within that party were finished.
Of course it was up to James to come to the decision for himself; and we prayed over the phone before concluding the call, for wisdom and a peace of heart. James is still very active in the party; and I never did feel it right to ask him how it went that day.
I never did hear a cock crow
It may have been that the Lord freed him later that morning from the situation he was anticipating; it may have been that he was able – in the immediacy of the moment of crisis – to ‘square the circle’ of conflict in his conscience: perhaps he felt the Lord telling him to ‘keep quiet’ so as to maintain his standing and witness within the political hothouse.
Of course there is also the possibility that he fell into the sorry situation of the apostle Peter when asked to state his allegiance. In fact I didn’t hear any cock crow three times that morning, and I am happy to believe that no rooster did.
However the incident powerfully illustrated the dilemma. If an individual wants to influence events in our world then they have to first get into a position of influence. But here’s the rub. To get into a position of influence it is very often necessary to sacrifice the very ideals that one is fighting to implement.
For many and for most of the time, the question remains as a philosophical abstract, but at times it leaps onto centre stage. For Alex Salmond, his party and his fellow MSPs – some of them particularly who are believers – we are seeing one of these moments now.
It is often debated as to whether Christians should be involved in politics at all; and if so whether to work within a secular mainstream party or seek to establish an exclusively Christian party. At the end of the day it is up to each individual believer to seek God’s will for his or her own life.
However, as mainstream politics and society as a whole moves towards an increasingly Christian-hostile position on so many issues, the question points up the dilemma for life within the secular political parties.
It is one of the conundrums in the world of politics: to bring influence and in order to drive change, one needs to attain a position of power; but to gain that position most often requires compromise at a host of levels – including the temptation to fall in line with party policies and the public mood. (And to fail to do so means banishment to the wilderness.) For the Christian believer the conflict can be unwinnable. Jesus did say that his followers cannot serve two masters.
See article: Alex Salmond being boxed in by God