Reconciliation (& Deprivation)

Scotland has decided.

Indyref results

That’s it.   As a nation we can be proud of the level of engagement the #indyref generated – in our age of apathy, and disillusionment with politicians, a turnout of 85% was impressive.   Once we go back to ballots to elect a person, I doubt we will keep the vote at this level.   I suspect the electorate do care about political debate, just not the ad hominem point scoring played by professional politicians.   MPs and MSPs: please take note.

But, there are now two big questions to address: Reconciliation and Deprivation

Reconciliation

There is no longer a 45%, or 55%, or even an 85%!   There is only one Scotland.   Our nation has to come together as one to face the enormous challenges presented to us.   That doesn’t mean we stop caring, or speaking about the issues – but the debate has to move on from the referendum’s binary choice, to normal political engagement.

It can’t be a superficial change.   It has been refreshing to see how quickly my social media streams drained of political symbols after Thursday’s vote.   But changing your Facebook profile certainly isn’t costly.    Reconciliation can’t be done on the cheap.

That’s why I’m disappointed with Scotland’s foremost churchman.   I couldn’t believe my ears Friday morning (BBC coverage, about 7:20am) as John Chalmers suggested his plan for reconciliation: Go and find someone from the other side and take a “selfie” with them.   It’s a sad symptom of the Church in Scotland: she has forgotten her foundation, and embraced the cheap self-indulgence of the age.   The Church doesn’t exist to encourage people to be nice to each other – we exist to call people to radical discipleship: Take up your cross and follow Jesus.   I suspect many parts of the Church can’t call people to costly grace because they don’t believe in a God whose grace was costly.

God’s model of reconciliation wasn’t to send his Son to take a cheap selfie with fallen people; to show off a chummy picture on social media.   He came to die in the place of people who had rejected God, God’s ways, and the good of God’s world.   As Paul put it, himself he emptied, taking the form of a slave, and then he went to the cross and died.

If there’s going to be reconciliation, it’s going to be costly.   If Scotland is to move forward as one, both the 45% and the 55% are going to have to die to their division, and work as one.   Leaving the fight we invested so much in for the last two years is where the real cost is going to be found.   And I think – even for my Christian friends on both sides of the debate – that will be hard.

Never let it be said that Scotland’s Presbyterian ministers offered only empty ideals, or pious rhetoric.   Here’s a practical suggestion:

Today, there’s a lot of talk about a movement emerging: #the45.   I can see why galvanising a partisan movement like this might be good for a future Independence battle.   But there might be a more refreshing route.   What if the diverse elements of the grassroots Yes campaign were to open up to include the huge number of No voters who today share the desire to hold Westminster to account for more powers?   That can only be done if they forsake their identity as a vehicle for Independence.   Moving on from the fight that ended on Thursday will be costly, because the way ahead doesn’t represent the interests of the 45% over against the 55%.   It has to include all of us.

If you think that’s impossible, consider this picture:

Impossible?

Deprivation

This needs another post – but this is why reconciliation can’t be cheap: the problems we face are huge, and demanding.

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An Emotional Decision – Reflections on the Scottish Independence Referendum

Echo.

THE BLOG OF DAVID ROBERTSON

An Emotional Decision

“I was, I think, the last speaker, and after dwelling on the encroachments made by the Court of Session, confirmed by the final judgement of the House of Lords, and on the manner in which we had been treated in Parliament, where the voices of the Scottish Members had been altogether overborne by the English majority, I said, on the spur of the moment, that such injustice was enough to justify Scotland in demanding the repeal of the Union. With that, to my surprise, and somewhat to my consternation, the meeting rose as one man, waving hats and hankerchiefs, and cheering again and again. No doubt the enthusiastic feelings of the people assisted our object, but I took care not to speak of repeal of the Union at our subsequent meetings” Annuls of the Disruption. Mr Wood of Ellie, describing his visit to the south of Dumfriesshire…

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How Should Christians Vote in the #IndyRef?

On Sunday evening past, I preached on what God’s Word says about how Christians should vote in the #IndyRef.   As the campaign reaches its closing stages, Scotland’s Christians need to be reminded of these things.

IndyRefSept

In 1 Peter 2:13-17, Peter takes some time to tell persecuted Christians how they are to relate to civil authorities – especially civil authorities they find they have little common ground with.   Polls are showing it’s going to be a narrow vote this Thursday, meaning about half of people – possibly half of Scotland’s Christians – are going to be disgruntled with the outcome.

So what does Peter say about how Christians should vote in the Referendum?   I suggest five things:

Submit to the result for the Lord’s sake

Peter urged Christians to respect the persecuting authorities in much the same way as Paul does in Romans 13.   Ultimately, they are appointed by God – a sovereign God who is working out a plan for his own glory, and the salvation of the saints.

There are going to be some Christians who really don’t like the #indyref result.   It’s important to therefore avoid bitterness, by walking into the polling booth with a heart resolved to submit to the result, because we love and trust a sovereign God who knows what he is doing.

Live as people who are free

Peter was writing to people who probably didn’t know a lot of freedoms.   Some were slaves, but even your average non-Roman had few of the civil liberties we take for granted today.   So why does Peter write to them, crushed under the heel of a persecuting government, to live as people who are free?

It’s actually because they were free.   They were set apart as a holy priesthood by God.   Christians need to grasp this – our unique status in Christ: as Jesus promised, free indeed.   The #Indyref can be dangerous for Christians, because it offers some sort of liberty (whichever way you see things!).   We need to vote on Thursday remembering this: the greatest liberty we want for our fellow Scots is freedom from sin and death.   We can’t go to the ballot box with confusion about this.

Have God’s heart for our nation

Along with living as free people, Peter (curiously) also reminds them that they are to live as servants – or literally, slaves – of God.   How are free people also slaves?   In Roman culture, the slave was expected to share his master’s goals and objectives.   He was, in a way, an extension of his master’s arm.   Christian freedom is actually a freedom to live our Master’s agenda: the counter cultural agenda of the Sermon on the Mount.

One danger for Christians voting in the #indyref is to accept the world’s agenda and priorities.   While the whole world sees the debate framed in essentially economic terms, maybe Christians want to remember they have counter cultural priorities?   When we go to the ballot box we ought to bear in mind that we have been given the heart of a servant of God, and ask ourselves hard questions accordingly.

Honour the Emperor.   Fear God.

Peter concludes the section with four people or individuals worth special mention.   I’ll come back to the brotherhood of believers last, but note the extraordinary thing he says about the emperor: honour the emperor.   That was probably Nero – of fiddle fame, who scapegoated the Christians while he torched Rome.   Peter’s point seems to be that the emperor ought to be treated with same honour given to all men.  But God alone is to be feared.

For Christians voting in the #indyref, it is alarmingly easy to fall into vitriolic or disparaging remarks of David Cameron and Alistair Darling, or Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.   We need to treat them with honour and respect.   But also with the right sort of respect.   After all, it’s not to them that we will one day have to answer.   Our vote shouldn’t be cast to impress people, or to fit in with the approval of peers.   Whatever hopes we have for the outcome of Thursday’s vote, again, God alone is to be feared – for he alone can deliver.

Finally: Love the Brotherhood of Believers

Peter, like other New Testament writers, expresses a common concern for the unity of the Church.   Groups under pressure are always likely to implode into angry recrimination and blame.   But the chief guard against that is to recall the brotherhood – the family ties – shared by believers.

At risk of cliché, we know the vote is on a knife edge.   Scotland is divided.   We really don’t know how that will play out over the coming months, but we do know this: Jesus meant for a united Church to be a powerful evangelistic message.   If we can go to the ballot box on Thursday resolved to be united with our brothers in Christ, whatever the outcome, then Scotland will be considerably well served.   It’s not about being seen as the broker of reconciliation for the political classes: it’s about being seen as loving people who are themselves reconciled around the risen, loving, Lord Jesus Christ, who died for all his children.

That’s how Christians should vote on Thursday.

God willing, we’ll have a bloodshed free final four days.