“For a while, it seemed the market had conquered all. Now politics is reasserting itself as a driving force. In Europe, the welfare state is thriving, and partisan furies are again dividing the Mideast.” (Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, Issues 2001 Special Edition, 14.)
The above quote accurately captures the resurgence of politics as a force to be reckoned with as we move into 2001. No, the gospel of the free market has not met all our needs. Partisan furies are indeed raging again. The recently concluded US Presidential elections saw a nation divided down the middle. Closer to home, for the first time in Malaysian history, the ruling National Front now faces a credible Alternative front.
Christians find themselves on different sides of partisan divides. Emotions can run high. Perspective can easily be lost. In the heat of battle it is easy to identify yourself uncritically with your party and demonise the opposition. Surely God must be on the side of my party.
But as Joshua discovered on the way to conquer Jericho, we may be too presumptuous.
“When Joshua was near Jericho he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua approached him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ The man replied, ‘Neither! I am here as captain of the army of the Lord.’ Joshua prostrated himself in homage and said, ‘What have you to say to your servant, my lord?’ The captain of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Remove your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy’;and Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5: 13-15, REB.)
Republican and Democrat alike stand under the judgement of God. Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternatif are both measured against God’s yardstick.
The question is not whether God is on our side. The question is, to what degree are we aligned with God and His purposes? And since all earthly institutions this side of heaven are a mixture of wheat and tares, the recognition that God, and not my party, is the final reality has a number of implications.
1. I must continue to work for reform in my own party, honestly acknowledging the areas where my party is out of sync with God and His values.
2. I must not demonise the opposition. Instead I must seek to learn from them and work with them where I can.
3. I must not reject my brother or sister who has chosen to align himself/herself with ‘the other side’. I owe them agape love at all times. Especially when we don’t agree.
4. I must constantly be humbled by the fact that I live my life before a holy and awesome God. I must remember to ‘take off my sandals’, adopt a stance of submissive hearing, if I am to be of any good to God in the party He has placed me.
Of course it is very hard to live like that. Because of that, many Christians choose to ignore the political arena completely. This is a shame since we are leaving a critical area bereft of the salt and light of gospel values.
But if we truly believe that God is working out His purposes in history, then some of us at least, must be standing up for Christ in the realm of politics as we enter the new millennium.
And the rest of us should be praying and giving whatever help we can.