Wednesday, 22 June 2016



And so the referendum is upon us. There has been no political event in my lifetime (including previous referenda) which has come anywhere near it in terms of engagement of thought. And words. So many words. 

In part, that is because of social media. We had social media for the last UK referendum (you remember - First Past The Post/Alternative Vote?) but it wasn't like this. I guess the Scottish referendum came close, for those north of the border. Then too feelings ran high. There was some pretty nasty stuff on Facebook, including, it has to be said, between Christians. But even then, not with quite such unpleasantness. Or a killing. 

This referendum has been especially difficult because the nature of the campaigning has led a large proportion of the public only to feel even sicker with politicians than ever before. We feel trapped - does a vote to leave imply approval of Farage and his ilk? Does a vote to remain mean we love Cameron and all he stands for?  Many of us struggle with those felt pressures. And many of us feel that the entire exercise has been a monumental mistake. What a mess!

But the biggest mess is at the personal level. I have never seen more intemperate language, nastier forms of "argument", more potential for long-term relationship stress between professing Christians. I know that the fallout after the Scottish referendum was painful; this could be far worse. 

Many of us have expressed our thoughts on Brexit pretty strongly. At times we have objected to the form as well as the content of one another's arguments. There has been some superb writing on both sides, from honest and caring Christians. There has also been aggression, sneering and derision. 

I have read from a Christian about "an almost irresistible urge to punch this man's face" - regarding something from Alastair Campbell on the day of Jo Cox' death. I have seen the desire expressed to tar and feather David Cameron and make him walk naked around London in a gay parade - this from a pastor's wife. This will not do. 

Brothers and sisters, tomorrow it will be over. And we need to be rebuilding some strained friendships. The kingdom of God is more important than the EU. Just writing that is therapeutic. Let's have it again: The kingdom of God is more important than the EU. That is true whichever way we are voting. Being a citizen of THAT kingdom trumps every earthly, political allegiance. Say it to yourself: The kingdom of God is more important than the EU. 

The most important work to be done in this messed up, divided, aching, corrupt, frightening UK is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the referendum has a net effect of damaging the unity and cooperation of those who should be working together in that bigger work, than it will have done the devil's work, whichever way it goes. Insofar as it has already led professing Christians to write and publicly share rude, offensive or aggressive posts, it had already done just that. 

With the post-modern meltdown destroying our civilisation faster than ever, there has never been a time when mutual love and cooperation between Christians is more crucial. Here is the greatest grief: we have been set at loggerheads at a time when perhaps, just perhaps, our fellow citizens may be a little more conscious than usual of their own lostness and weakness in the face of great fears. 

Say it to yourself again: The kingdom of God is more important than the EU. Then search your heart - are there brothers and sisters from whom you need to ask forgiveness? Look for the fault lines that the referendum debate has opened up in your own fellowship circles. And put things right. 

It may be worth doing it now. Before the result is in - and Now is always the official time for repentance anyway.  

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