Thursday, 23 April 2015

Who Governs?

A Very British Coup was a television drama that made a big impact in the late 1980s.  It told the story of Harry Perkins MP, a former steel worker from Sheffield, who becomes Prime Minister in a socialist government.  His radical policies are generally popular with the country at large but he is constantly frustrated by unsympathetic civil servants, smeared by an influential media mogul and undermined by governments of other countries.   Eventually forces opposed to Perkins come together in a bloodless coup to have him removed from office. 

It   was first-class drama with the late Ray McAnally excelling as Harry Perkins.  It raised a serious question, however, which is still being asked and ought to be of concern to us all: who governs Britain?  Is it our elected representatives or is it people we have never heard of who are in the background but press the buttons and pull the levers of power? 

Contributions to that debate are still flowing from the pens of political and social commentators and rightly so.  Whatever conclusions Christian people might come to we must always hold the perspective of the Scriptures on political power.   Psalm 2 presents a picture of a God who is above political machination but is ultimately in control of the flow of human history.  The Apostle Paul is clear that political authority is part of God’s plan for the stability of the nations.  Jesus boldly proclaimed to Pilate that he would have no power if it were not given ‘from above.’ 

It is a great encouragement for us to know that whatever plans emerge from political manifestoes there is a Deep Story unfolding.   Jesus would call it the building of God’s Kingdom, the transformation of the whole of God’s Creation, restoring it to that state where suffering and injustice and death have no place.  In the meantime, certain individuals are entrusted with the welfare of the nations.  They are given power ‘from above’ and are responsible to God for the exercise of that power.   In the end, the big question will be how close a government has been to the Deep Story. 

This is why we are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority.   Paul writes:

‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  (1 Timothy 2: 1-2)’ 

Not that we are to endorse everything a government stands for but that a vision of the Kingdom might be kept before all those in authority along with an awareness of their awesome responsibility.