[notice]A monthly column by Michael Cassidy, evangelist, author, Christian leader and founder of African Enterprise whose ministry in Africa and the world has spanned more than 50 years.[/notice]A general election highlights the phenomenon of choice both in society and in life generally.
A general election highlights the phenomenon of choice both in society and in life generally.
And what a critically important God-given faculty this is.
You see, the power to choose and make self-conscious rational and moral choices is at one level the very thing which makes us distinctively human. Adam and Eve had to make a moral choice about whether or not to eat of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Moses had to choose whether or not to answer God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Joshua told the Children of Israel: “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). The Psalmist David had to choose whether or not to commit adultery with Bathsheba. You and I have to choose whether or not to follow Christ. We also choose what to wear each day, or whether it will be cereal or porridge at breakfast, and what to spend our money on. And so on. That’s why the worst thing that can happen to someone is to have their ability to make free choices removed or limited, as for example in being sent to prison.
In a sense this is what Christian morality is all about – making right moral choices in line with the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
Now in an election season we exercise this power of choice as we choose the type of people or parties we want to govern us now and guide us into the future. Will it be Libs or Labs? JZ (Jake) or HZ (Helen)? Will it be the Revolutionaries or the Rainbows? The Freedom Fighters or the Freedom Front?
Now in this process the role of the Christian church is critically important, most especially as we choose to be the conscience of the nation. Indeed we must choose firstly to embody righteousness, and secondly to proclaim vigorously the moral and foundational principle that “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). In other words if a nation wants to be exalted by God and be lifted up and progress, it needs to be characterised by righteousness.
The obvious corollary of Proverbs 14:34 is that if a nation is unrighteous, in other words lacking in clear moral principle and practice, it will go down-hill. Forget about whether the economy is good or bad, education improving or declining, sports teams doing well or badly, if the nation becomes characterised by unrighteousness or corruption it will decline. It is a law. We reap what we sow. If immorality, promiscuity, corruption, lack of honesty and integrity prevail, a nation sets itself on a downward path.
At Election Time the church needs to affirm and reaffirm this.
The Church must also choose at this Election Time to remind the State that it is not autonomous. It is not a law (Gk: nomos) unto itself (Gk: autos = self). It has, whether it knows it or not, a Transcendent Accountability. In Romans 13:4, the Apostle affirms that the Powers that Be are ‘God’s servant for your good.’ The State is God’s servant. It is morally and spiritually accountable to Him. It is, as we said, not a law unto itself.
Nor does the State determine public morality by an independent moral thumb-suck from its Executive. It has to look beyond itself to the God whose servant it is, and to His Ten Commandments, not His Ten Suggestions, by which human moral behaviour is to be determined.
Supremacy of Scripture
At Election Time, in fact any time, the Church also chooses the Bible over the Constitution. Our Constitution, though a good one, is not a Holy Writ. And if there is a clash between any of its principles, and those of Scripture, we go with Scripture. In other words, the church must never find itself in the pocket of the State or any party. We retain the right to speak prophetically to all.
The church must also choose to engage in that most radical and powerful of activities, namely prayer. Says the apostle: “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18). Tennyson said: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” So, brothers and sisters, our country desperately needs prayer. Political veteran Alex Boraine, in his landmark book What’s Gone Wrong? On the Brink of a Failed State, speaks of us not quite yet being “a failed state.” But “we are a failing state.” He adds in his book, which should be required reading for all before the election, “the ANC has dug itself into a huge hole, socially, morally and politically, and has taken South Africa with it.” This, from a deep political thinker of vast experience, is a chilling word. And it calls us all to serious prayer for our precious nation. Please make a deliberate choice to pray for South Africa with new intentionality at this time.
So when we come to vote, which we have a moral obligation to do, where we put our cross will not be governed by emotion or tradition. Rather we will prayerfully ask of the different parties, candidates, or policies, whether secular, pseudo-Christian, Christian or multi-religious, tribal or multi-ethnic:
- Which one constitutes the best approximation to the social and economic intentions of our Lord?
- Which one recognises most the equal dignity of all people before God?
- Which one is most committed to the Christian imperatives of reconciliation and dialogue, and the creation of true community?
- Which one is most non-racial?
- Which one is fairest to all 52 million South Africans?
- Which one most protects and exemplifies the biblical ideal of unified homes, strong marriages and family life?
- Which one has policies most likely to stimulate economic growth and the delivery of most jobs to the unemployed?
- Which one is most committed to the Rule of Law and to an incorruptible legal system with courts of integrity, objectivity and true justice?
- Which one most fully embraces transparency and truth?
- Which one has the greatest skill-base and capacity to rule capably, efficiently and effectively?
- Which one looks more to the next generation rather than the next election?
The point to register as Christians is that when we vote we do not do so on the basis of pride, or prejudice, or race, or selfish interests, but on the basis of moral and biblical principle.
Because what is morally right won’t ultimately be politically wrong.
You see, the Christian is obliged to begin his or her thinking from the Cross.
So think about the Cross of Christ when you put your personal Cross on that piece of paper.