Truth and Reconciliation

 

As I write this the EU Referendum is just a week or so away so I don’t yet know the outcome.  Due to publishing deadlines the result will have been published by the time you get to read this article, so you do! Although in one respect I am writing in the dark, the opinion polls and pundits are all predicting a close run thing so it is fair to say that a large proportion of the electorate will be disappointed by the outcome.

Despite the early commitment by the politicians to keep the Referendum conversation from becoming personal, it seems that people on both sides resorted to attacking the integrity and wisdom of the other protagonists. As a result there are deep divisions between members in each of the main political parties.

In time no doubt the dust will settle and government will have to get back to the task of doing business with other European leaders regardless of the outcome. In order to do this people who have expended a great deal of emotion against each other will need to work together again as colleagues, and even as friends. This will require reconciliation and forgiveness.

The title of this article is borrowed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up to try and heal the deep divisions in South Africa after the collapse of the apartheid regime. It operates on the philosophy that reconciliation depends on the truth of past hurts being brought out into the open and amnesty being granted to offenders who are willing to be honest about their role in harming others.

Thankfully the divisions, and even hatred, expressed in our society do not run as deep as those in post-apartheid South Africa. So there is hope for the future of the UK. Nevertheless unless these divisions are healed there is potential for them to deepen over time.

On many occasions Jesus spoke about the vital importance of reconciliation in all human relationships. He gave us a number of priorities:

  1. The need to seek reconciliation is urgent. The bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. We are to seek reconciliation as soon as we are hurt, or realise that we have hurt someone.
  2. Each of us is responsible for taking the first step towards reconciliation. If we wait for the other person to come to us reconciliation will be delayed, possibly forever.
  3. The goal is reconciliation rather than vindication. Whether we are right or whether we are wrong it is more important to be reconciled than to apportion blame.
  4. Reconciliation can only occur once forgiveness has been offered and received. Forgiveness does not ignore the pain but chooses to accept it and to forego any desire for revenge or retribution.

In the prayer Jesus taught we say ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. Those who wish to be forgiven must be those who forgive others. My prayer is that whatever our future role in Europe we will become a nation of people who will not let any issue divide us but will live in truth and reconciliation with each other.

 

This blog post featured in the July/August 2016 edition of Hook Focus

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In, Out, In, Out … Shake it all about

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The referendum debate reminds me of the Hokey Cokey. Overwhelmingly people I speak to are undecided whether we should be in or out of the EU. The overall attitude to the subject seems to either be one of confusion or of boredom.

As we approach Thursday 23rd June one thing is certain and that is that everyone will be glad when it is over, for now at least. If the opinion polls are right it will be a close run decision which means that a sizeable minority of voters will be disappointed with the outcome. Regardless of the outcome there will be yet further analysis of the implications of the decision and how it will be worked out over the coming months and years.

The public debate seems to have revolved about matters such as immigration and also about how much better off we will be financially. Each side it seems tries to outdo the other in instilling fear over the consequences of making the wrong decision. The difficulty it seems is knowing who to believe.

What if there could be another way to approach the issue? One that did not place self-interest at the heart of the debate? One that instead put the priorities of preaching the Good News about Jesus at the centre?

I understand that this approach may not get an airing on TV’s Question Time, but it seems to me that it is the approach that fits best with a biblical understanding of how we as Christians should approach any manifestation of human government. In 1 Timothy 2 Paul urged ‘that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-for kings and all those in authority’. What Paul is inviting us to is concerted and effortful praying.

He is also specific in what we should request. The biblical agenda in verse two is radically different from the matters of financial stability or national sovereignty that have driven the campaign. He says we should pray ‘that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ He then goes on to say that ‘this is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’

This insight may not change the way that you vote on 23rd June but hopefully it will inspire you to pray that the outcome will be good for the preaching of the gospel across the whole of Europe. It is always good to pray in this way for our political leaders, but especially at a time of referendum which is expected to set the course for our nation for the next 40 years.

 

This blog post featured in the June 2016 edition of Lifelines