Summary: With the UK General Election only 4 days away I am not telling people who to vote for but I want people to vote, and to vote for men and women who display the Beatitudes - the Beautiful Attitudes of Jesus.
What are you looking for in your local Member of Parliament, or your local Town Councillor? Is it the colour of their tie; or is it the colour of their character?
In our first Bible reading this morning we heard an extract from a letter written by St. Paul to his apprentice Timothy. He was exhorting the young Church leader to call the Church to pray “for kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2: 2). It’s so very easy to criticise leaders, politicians, local councillors, and Members of Parliament; but we are called to pray for them – whether we agree with them or not.
The Church – and therefore every Christian - is called to pray for those in any form of government, national and local, praying “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. Whatever politicians do or say, either in public or in private, we are called to be peaceful, godly, and holy.
But what does that mean? ‘Peaceful, godly and holy’ might sound a bit like the title of a poem, or a programme about a monastery; or even 3 characters or angels from a book - Peaceful, Godly and Holy; but it’s none of those. They are character traits that God desires for us. God desires that we are each peaceful – not prone to rage or violent outburst. God desires that we are godly – having God’s attitude towards people, towards forgiveness, and towards prayer; and God desires that we are holy. In other words ‘different’ because that is essentially what holiness is about, when combined with peacefulness and godliness.
When it comes towards our attitudes and behaviours towards each other, and towards politicians, we are called to be different, peaceful, and prayerful – seeking to have God’s mind, God’s approach, God’s way of being towards the other person. When we disagree with a politician we are especially called to exhibit these traits towards them.
So I ask again: What are you looking for in your local Member of Parliament, or your local Town Councillor? Is it the colour of their tie; or is it the colour of their character? And what is the colour of your character towards them?
In our second Bible reading (Matthew 5: 1-12) we heard the part of the Bible that has become known as the ‘Beatitudes’, or literally the ‘Beautiful Attitudes’. Jesus “went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (5:1-2). Jesus then went on to describe a list of Beautiful Attitudes that a follower of Jesus will develop, and the heavenly blessings and eternal benefits that are promised to those who exhibit them.
As we examine ourselves, aware of our faults and failings, and as we examine our local candidates standing for election, aware of their faults and failings; the Beatitudes describe the character traits of Jesus.
They also describe the character traits that God desires to create, form and develop within us, and within those who govern us. They form a checklist that I, we, and our Election candidates may fail to live up to; but they also form a description of the character that God will develop within men and women who live to follow Jesus, his teachings and his actions.
There are no perfect candidates out there, but there are Christians and other people of genuine goodwill who desire deeply to do the right thing and I hope you will vote for them; and I hope you will pray for them; whilst seeking to weigh-up each candidate when compared with the list of Beautiful Attitudes described by Jesus. He said “blessed are the poor in spirit …those who mourn …the meek …those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …the merciful …the pure in heart …the peacemakers …those who are persecuted because [they do and say the right things] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:3-10).
The life of Jesus teaches us that he came not to be served but to serve. St. Paul, writing about Jesus, and encouraging the Church to be filled with the attitude of Jesus wrote this: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus … [He] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:3-7).
So as we are called to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others - that should be a key factor in how we vote. Are we seeking to look after number one, which for some people is their philosophy in life? Or will we ask God to direct our voting so that our vote is not just about our own interests but also the interests of others; and so that our vote is for a candidate who will champion the interests of others ahead of their own.