The dust has settled on one of the most exciting Singapore general elections. There were Christians on both sides of the political divide. Some passionately supported the party in power. Others supported one of the opposition parties. Therefore some are elated and relieved, and some are very disappointed.
I am glad that so many Christians took their democratic duties seriously. Democracy is no perfect system. It is probably the best among the various imperfect systems of government available to us. Christians are to be salt and light in society and if a system allows us to maximise good and minimise evil in some way, we should do our part.
But I am under no illusions that politics will solve humankind’s deepest problem. The problem is the human heart. It has been corrupted by sin. We all need a spiritual heart transplant. As James Houston, citing Dallas Willard, reminds us, human institutions, “cannot change the human heart. That is why Jesus did not send out his disciples to change governments or even to build churches, but to change hearts.” (Joyful Exiles, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006, p. 87)
There have been so many examples in history where getting rid of a tyrant means being ruled by a new one. As The Who reminded us in their song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”:
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
For those whose party won, don’t get too excited. And for those whose party or candidate lost, do not get too discouraged. God is sovereign. Let’s continue with our commitment to sharing the Gospel.
I would propose the same word to my brothers and sisters in my home country. For a long time the church in Malaysia hardly talked about politics. The primary purpose of the church, and Christians, was to save souls. Where people spent eternity was far more important than how they lived their lives on earth. Politics was a distraction from the evangelistic mandate.
Then the church began to realise that in some sense eternity begins now, and that we are to preach the Gospel but we are also to live out the values of the Gospel in all areas of life. This is right and true and I am delighted that the church in Malaysia has woken up to the fact that we are not just to prepare people for heaven, but that heaven invades earth. While we wait for God’s Kingdom to come in its fullness, we are to pray and work for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I have not hidden the fact that I would like a change of government in Malaysia. I am fully aware that often a vote is a choice between two imperfect governments but, at any given point in history, I need to choose and so I need to ask which party/coalition is less evil, less corrupt, less incompetent, less racist. I am emotionally engaged in my political choices and so this is a very frustrating time.
I remind myself to step back a little. Yes, I must still be committed to the political process, but the ebbs and flows of the political situation must not distract me from the fact that Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and that the most important change in history has already occurred. The promised Messiah has come. He has taught us about the plans of God. And, more critically, He has died on the Cross to effect the salvation of humankind and of creation.
I need wisdom to allocate resources for my various duties. I need to play my part to work for justice and righteousness in society. But I must not spend all my resources in that endeavour. I must make sure that I still invest key resources to point people to the good news of Jesus Christ. Christians on all sides of the political divide should be united on this point.