“I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected.” And with those words the shortest reign of any Prime Minister came to an abrupt and somewhat ignominious end. A week used to be a long time in politics. In these extraordinary times, when the word unprecedented has been used an unprecedented number of times, a single day can feel like an eternity.
If the Prime Minister feels unable to deliver change, it’s unsurprising that so many of us also feel powerless. A sense of disaffection is causing many to disengage. The unending rounds of unedifying headlines ever eroding the interest of many in public life.
And yet as Christians, we don’t get to enjoy the luxury of detachment in the last resort of cynicism. Why? Because we are called to change things and, what’s more, we have been given the power to do just that.
Watching a Prime Minister’s crumbling confidence reminds us that true authority comes from the confidence of those who appointed you and in what you’re called to do. For Jesus, this comes early and with crystal clarity. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus has the perfect will of the Father, as his mandate and the presence of the Holy Spirit, for power. We are not that different. For Jesus elects us to join his mission and promises the same Holy Spirit, the one that rose him from the dead, to empower us all. As a result, followers of Christ are never purposeless or powerless. So how do we exercise Christ’s mandate and power in these extraordinary times? In the time available a few suggestions will suffice.
Firstly, remember the mandate. The Spirit is on us when we preach good news to the poor. Two weeks ago, Spring Harvest hosted the launch of the Warm Welcome campaign. With more than 16million households facing fuel poverty this winter, churches and charities are coming together to provide physical warmth and relational support through a long cold winter. Over 1,600 Warm Welcome spaces have already been registered at warmwelcome.uk. This is Holy Spirit empowered movement is good news for millions. Why not exercise your power by volunteering at a Warm Welcome space near you or helping to turn your local church, School, library, business or community centre into a Warm Welcome centre? If not through Warm Welcome, there are many other ways to serve the poor.
Secondly, pray. The results may sometimes seem less obvious or immediate but rest assured, God answers prayer. Earlier today I was deeply moved as someone shared how their own sense of powerlessness has led them to pray more passionately and persistently for Christians in politics. For many, the confession, “I’m a politician,’ leads to derision. MPs soon lose count of the times that they have been told that they “You’re all the same!” This is obviously a reference to their most recently disgraced and dishonourable friend or colleague. The knowledge that Christians are praying for politicians at all levels is a huge pick-me-up and those prayers are answered in ways we can’t imagine. So ask your local councillors and elected members, what they want prayer for and make sure they know that you’re standing and kneeling with them in difficult times.
Thirdly, exercise your power. At a time when democracy appears under threat, we would do well to remember what it’s all about. Democracy is the opportunity for us to build deeper relationships with our neighbours - the ones we know and get on with, and the ones we don’t - and then to use these relationships to power a better world. It all sounds strangely Christian when you put it like that. By recognising what humans have in common, building relationships across our communities and standing up together for those who have been put down, we take on Jesus’ own Holy Spirit powered mandate and exercise the authority he has given to us.
Pope Francis says, “We are not living in an era of change but in a change of era.” This maybe one reason that a week in politics feels like forever, right now. In the midst of great change, let us exercise the power that God has given us, remembering that we have the mandate of Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit, and ensure that this next era is tinged with eternity and the favour of our Father.