In my posts on the Referendum I tried hard not to come down on one side or the other. My reason for this was a strong belief that as a Christian minister my role is not to tell people where to put their ‘X’, but rather to open up a Biblical angle on the issues to enable people to make their own decision under God’s guidance.
But now I cannot influence the outcome, I feel at liberty to say that I think the British public have made the wrong decision: wrong economically, wrong politically, but most importantly wrong spiritually. In the short term I believe Brexit will damage the church’s ability to fulfil our calling to bring hope for the poor, relief from suffering for the oppressed, and the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ to the world.
Like many Christians, over the past few weeks my prayer has been “Your will be done.” So how do I respond now? Has God’s will been done? Am I wrong in my understanding? Where is the message of hope for those who feel angry and hurt today?
As I reflect on this I think I unwittingly preached the answer last Sunday as we looked at Psalms of Lament, and particularly Psalm 137: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Because the will of God being done is not the same as a pain free life. Jacob and his family going down into Egypt to 400 years of slavery, the people of Judah being carried off into 70 years exile in Babylon, the early church being scattered by persecution: these were all horrific experiences for those involved, but each was used by God to bring about his will. I’m not saying that God caused the suffering involved, but in each case it was the means by which he moved his people on into the next stage of their relationship with him – the people of Israel formed into a nation in the land God had promised them; an idolatrous people brought back to the living God; a Jerusalem focussed church pushed into fulfilling God’s call to witness to the nations.
And the ultimate example, Jesus who in the garden of Gethsemane prayed more fervently than anyone before or since that God’s will be done, and God’s will was that he should endure the cross in order to open up a new level of relationship with God made available to people of every nation.
So my hope for today is that God’s will is always to work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). The times of suffering and lament have so often been the beginning of a new movement of God. Exile is followed by restoration. Crucifixion is followed by resurrection. And so too may Brexit be followed by a time in which the church discovers again and anew the calling which God has given us to bring the gospel to the nations, and learns in a new way to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. Then our prayers will have been answered, and the will of God will truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.