The following brief reflection is a plea to Christians across the U.K. in response to the Referendum result.
So its 4:30 in the morning and I am about to drive to the airport. I've been up all night watching the referendum results flow in. What looked like a narrow win for the Remain Campaign now looks like a narrow win for the Leave Campaign. I've listened to the pundits, the politicos and the peddlars ideology on both sides. I want to make a plea to Christians across the U.K.
I deliberately did not disclose how I was voting to anyone other than those who were closest to me, and I am not going to disclose my decision to anyone. I think senior leaders of churches and other community orientated groups, would have been wise to do the same, but that's not my shout. The reason I have not, and will not disclose my personal decision is because I was certain that whether we voted to remain or to leave, I would need to lead a large community of people, not only locally but across the U.K., on the day after the referendum. I have to lead others and help them to walk forward after this campaign. So I make the following plea because none of you, hopefully, will know whether I am disappointed or jubilant at the result and I am glad you don't. My spirituality and theology is deeply rooted in my Elim family and in the convictions of the Baptist Church that I lead. That means I am committed to the presence, power and purpose of the Holy Spirit and I am committed to the principle of letting people make major decisions together. My plea flows out of that soil. I have three pleas
Let the Spirit lead us to be peacemakers.
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enabled all who were present in Jerusalem to hear the truth of Christ in their own language, (Acts 2). Paul urged his listeners to remember the unity that Christ brought to believers, (Galatians 3:28). The picture of the Church at the end of the Age is one of people drawn from every tongue tribe and nation, (Revelation 5:9, 7:9). One of the key works and purposes of the Holy Spirit is to bring a people who are from different classes, backgrounds and worldviews together in a new family. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are now entrusted with the deep ministry of reconciliation, (2 Corinthians 5). What unites us across the Church is not our politics, our social standing, our wealth our or our views on Europe. What unites us is the grace of God in our lives and the command of God to us to be peacemakers. We are bridge-builders. And the bridges we build are made up of pieces of the cross. Across our nation there are millions of people who are thrilled at the result of this referendum and there are millions of people who are disappointed. Political parties are divided on the issue, communities are divided on the issue, families are divided on the issue and churches are divided on the issue. We need to be bridge-builders. Please, please, please don't stand on a podium declaring that you were right all along. I heard Nigel Farage a few moments ago say that this was a victory for decent, hard-working people. Well, you know what, there are decent, hard-working people on both sides of this decision. I have consistently said that there were Christians on both sides of the debate. As recently as yesterday, I was sent a leaflet telling me that any Christian who voted to remain was wrong - I just don't agree. Can we, as Christians, give ourselves to the deep task of building bridges.
Those of us who are Pentecostal could take this as an opportunity to embrace the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit. To speak to people in their language, to help people find one another again. We could lead the way in enabling our churches, our families and our communities to be places where the divisions are healed and we unite around the most important thing of all, the Lordship of Jesus and the cause of Christ.
Mr Farage is wrong to claim the moral victory for those who voted Leave, just as David Cameron would have been wrong to do that if the Remain camp had won. The road ahead will be one full of bumps, challenges and uncertainties. What we need to be is people who rise above the pride that we won, if we voted Leave, or the pain and hurt that we lost, if we voted Remain, and instead be people who look for all that is good in our communities and help people find each other. Our communities need us. Too many leaders of churches have peddled their views, demanded folk listen to their prophetic insight and claimed to have Divine revelation on one side or the other.
Please can we find a way of honouring one another, of building community, of helping healing to be at the heart of our communities. Can we be people of hope, of grace and of reconciliation. I intend to write to my M.P. and tell her she has my thoughts and prayers. I intend to write to other parliamentarians I know and do the same - on both sides of the debate. I intend to help my Church to behave graciously, generously and lovingly toward one another. And I intend to challenge the attitude of those who would gloat and those who would behave as if they have been personally insulted by the decision of the British people.
Continue to see Europe as a mission field.
My second plea is simple. Can we please, as Christians, continue to see the people of Europe as a mission field. We are part of this continent even if we have decided to separate ourselves from the European Union. A friend of mine once said that protest is good, but alternatives are better. We have now made a decision to go it alone, but we still hold a responsibility to bring the Gospel of Christ and the hope of forgiveness and resurrection to the people of the continent where God has placed us. We may even, by God's grace, be given the opportunity to help start a dialogue about a better Europe, a fairer Europe, a more balanced Europe. Please, please, please, don't turn your backs on the people of the wider continent. Can we pray for them, connect with them and share the Gospel of Christ with them. We may have rejected their political structures but please don't reject their souls.
Be a welcoming community.
My third and final plea is simple. Can we be a welcoming community. Welcoming the poor, the destitute and the broken. Can we demonstrate by our actions and intentions that we are a generous, loving people. Can we put the rhetoric of rejection of those who have nothing behind us and find constructive ways of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those who have no one else to turn to. Not only that, could we be careful to find those people who are already in our churches, our communities and our nation who come from other countries and will feel vulnerable and perhaps even unwanted. Can we assure them of our love, can we thank them for their contribution to our society and can we give them every message possible that the people of God will continue to include them, thank God for them and make room for them.
We need to be an authentic Christ-like community in the days that lie ahead. Please don't put your personal preferences above the personhood of people around you. Please don't put your political views on a podium and hold up a gold medal of victory, Please behave as people of peace, reaching out a hand to others. After all, it is what Christ has done for us.