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A Christian response to 'Stay Alert'

Christian attitudes to government guidance should be different to those of our friends, says Martin Segal, lead elder at The City Church, Canterbury

Like many others across the UK on Sunday evening, I watched the ministerial broadcast from our Prime Minister with a hope that we may be hearing some good news for what’s next. Before Boris Johnson had even finished speaking social media exploded with a variety of praise and scorn in many forms.

Whatever you think of the new Stay Alert roadmap, I believe that there are some key responses God’s people need to have.

I recognise we will all have unanswered questions: when can we see family members that aren’t in our household? What does this mean for our jobs? Our finances? Our church? Being a follower of Christ means embracing the unknown - we are not God - that means we do not have all the answers. So as we continue to follow government guidance, here are five encouragements to you.

1. Pray lots

1 Timothy 2:1-2 tells us to pray for all who are in high positions. Paul didn’t write this because he was a huge fan of those in charge at that time or because he agreed with what they said and did. So often we limit our prayers to those we love, care about and agree with. He knew it was important in spite of this.

Our culture has become more and more divided, we are taught to view anyone different to us as ‘inferior’ even an ‘enemy’, rather than a fellow image-bearer of God who holds the same value and dignity as anyone else.

When it comes to our politicians that animosity is doubled and the division intensified. We judge, criticise and complain about those in power when we are biblically called by Christ to do the total opposite. Our effort and energy should go into praying for them first. I wonder how many of us prayed for the prime minister after the broadcast on Sunday? How many of us have prayed for parliament since then? I’m not saying we can’t disagree with those in power but what I am saying is imagine if we put our energy and effort into praying for them rather than criticising them?

2. Show honour

Secondly, we are called to honour those in power. Honour is a big deal to God, we see it is a regular exhortation in scripture. Peter writes that the church is to fear God and honour the emperor (1 Peter 2:17). The church that has been ravaged by persecution is being encouraged to honour the man responsible! Peter, who is crucified upside down by the Roman Empire because of his faith, calls the church to honour them. I find this incredible that even when those who are in authority over you are persecuting you you’re still called to honour them.

The call isn’t to do what you’re told but rather a call of respect. We are Christ’s ambassadors on this earth, we are called to dignified, upright living. How we interact with authority shouldn’t be led by our preference or opinion but by Christ and his glory. In a time where most commentary towards our political leaders is full of scorn, contempt, mockery and anger, how much would Christ’s Church shine in this time if our response was honouring, measured, kind and loving? No matter what your politics, your king calls you to honour the government, remember they are human, have some empathy and imagine the pressure and challenges they are facing, speak words of life, and to show the love and compassion of Christ to the world.

3. Have faith

The writer of Hebrews tells us faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Covid-19 has shown us that whatever this world tells you to place your hope in is flawed and unstable. Our health, money, jobs, freedoms, hobbies and dreams can be taken from us in the blink of an eye. Yet our hope in Jesus is constant whatever comes our way in life.

Paul tells us that in any season whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, succeeding or failing his confidence remained the same because of Jesus. We can be confident in God’s character and God’s promises. Circumstances change, God doesn’t. He is faithful. Just like his nature, so his promises remain. He is for you, he is with you, nothing can separate you from his love and he has good works for you to walk in.

As we focus on the character and promises of God rather than on our circumstance we can live in the assurance of what we hope for in Christ. This isn’t the end of our story, Jesus has given us purpose and he has the ultimate victory. Let your confidence in Jesus shape your courage today.

4. Be wise

Ephesians 5:15 tells us to walk not as unwise but wise. The people of God are a people of poise. Panic, stubbornness, arrogance and foolishness are not characteristics of a child of God.

By his spirit he has given us the mind of Christ, we are led by the spirit and walk in step with the spirit. In times like this, we should seek to follow Christ, not controversy.

Is the word of God shaping our thinking and decisions or is it what we are hearing and reading around us?

Across the globe fatigue and frustration are growing. It will be increasingly tempting to act like everyone else. Godly wisdom listens not to fear or frustration but to the still small voice of God and his convictions. Wisdom means being slow to speak and slow to anger, it means trusting God’s plans and timings and resting in him.

5. Keep going

In Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, a common trait honoured by Christ is patient endurance. In the midst of hardship, persecution and poverty, a key characteristic of the church has always been perseverance. Jesus helps us carry on, to not grow weary in doing good, to not give up even when troubles come our way.

I know it’s hard, I know it’s confusing, I know it’s frustrating but in Christ keep going. Take each day as it comes, focus on the blessings of God and make gratitude your attitude. Daily enjoy the new mercies of God, confess your sins, delight in his love for you. Regularly read his word, keep connecting with your church family, don’t just spectate the Sunday service but interact, encourage your pastors, join zoom calls with your small group, family and friends.
No matter how the new Stay Alert guidance made you feel, rest in the powerful, loving and faithful arms of your saviour who will use this for your good and for his glory.

Martin Segal is the lead elder at The City Church. He lives in Canterbury with his wife Kathryn and kids Annabeth and Millie. He loves football, reading and movies. This article first appeared at thecitychurch.org.uk

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