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The General Election: Being in the World but Not of the World

As God’s people we are called to work ‘for the good of society’.

Some people struggle to decide who to vote for as all the mainstream political parties have a fairly secularist agenda. Although most UK political parties have Christian roots, the rise of secularism has made it increasingly difficult for Christians to identify with any one political party’s whole policy programme. We are called to live in, whilst not subscribing to the values of, the  world and that includes politics.

The Bible provides guidance about Christian engagement with government. In Romans 13, Paul states that the governing authorities are God’s servants with the responsibility to punish evil and reward good behaviour. 1 Peter 2: 13-17 instructs us to submit to civil rulers and to do so “for the Lord’s sake”. Within the context of the Roman Empire, that submission was necessary to refute the claim that the Christians were acting in a politically subversive manner. Paul reminds us in 1 Tim 2: 1-4 to pray for those in authority “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. In Acts 5:29 the apostles replied to the Sanhedrin “we must obey God rather than men!”

When the government fulfils its God-given mandate Christians are to submit to the civil authority. However, on occasions when a ruler exalts himself and makes an idolatrous claim to absolute power or where the government seeks to intervene in the life of the Church with the effect of frustrating her mission to share the gospel in word and deed, we must resist.

Increasingly Christians in Britain are coming under pressure for expressing their Christian faith. Whether it is midwives who are unwilling to be involved in the management of abortions, judges who are sanctioned for speaking up in favour of marriage or teachers who are passed over for promotion because they are unwilling to read certain books to primary school aged children, Christians are being asked to choose between being faithful to the Lord and career advancement.

It is in this area that the policies of political parties must be tested. If a candidate holds views which conflict with the Bible, we must ask if it is right to vote for that person. The purpose of local church hustings or the election question times is to allow us to be informed about the views of candidates and the policies of their parties. In addition, CARE has produced an election website which can be found at www.engage15.org.uk where the voting record of MPs on key moral issues is available. I would encourage you to visit the website and attend a hustings or question time event before 7th May.

Gordon Macdonald is Parliamentary Officer for CARE for Scotland