In the Bible, “unity” is very important. We see this in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – working together at creation, and at Jesus’ baptism and resurrection. Jesus spells it out very clearly in his prayer for us – his disciples – in John 17:21 “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” Yet often in our journey of faith, we fall short. In our churches we often find strong views and different opinions and we lose sight of Christ’s ‘new commandment’ from John 13:34-35 “… I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
There are many examples of falling out and broken relationships in the Bible. Paul and Barnabas fell out over John Mark. Paul didn’t trust Mark and “… they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company …” But towards the end of his life Paul says to Timothy “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Working together brings strength. We all need to recognise that we can be wrong and make mistakes. Both Paul and Mark learned from their mistakes and made a new start – so can we and so, too can those who govern us.
As we move forward into a new decade – we see several “new starts” – a new MP for Don Valley; a new Parliament with big majority for Government. Then, a new power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland to provide leadership and direction after over three years. On all sides, there are still differences and strongly held views, but will people be able to work together to heal divisions from the past?
We hear “the talk” – but will they “walk the walk”. In his first speech to the new Parliament, Boris Johnson said he wanted, “to reach out … to find common ground, to heal the divisions …”
In Belfast, at the first session of Stormont, Arlene Foster, the new DUP First Minister, said “It’s time for Stormont to move forward and show that ‘together we are stronger’ for the benefit of everyone.” While Michele O’Neill, the Sinn Fein deputy First Minister, responded by talking of a “determination to deliver a stable power-sharing coalition that works on the basis of openness, transparency and accountability, and in good faith.”
We wait and, in our churches, pray that they can work together and deliver for the common good. Governments have accountability to God as well as to those who elect them. Paul reminds us (Romans 13:1) “For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” But we, too have a responsibility. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Tim 2:2) “Pray … for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can go quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Saviour God wants us to live.” Let’s pray for those who govern us as they work through new approaches.
IVOR GREER (Pastor)