Reflections on royalty

Reflections on royalty

Queen Elizabeth II was remarkable not only for the great length of her reign (though Louis XIV of France reigned longer), but also for her particular mix of qualities such as steadiness, sound judgement, dignity, discretion, humility, caring, a deep commitment to serving, and a genuine, heart-felt Christian faith.

Time will tell just how much of that character and Christian faith has been passed on to subsequent royal generations. Many Christians will no doubt pray about that, and for Charles as the new King.

In our modern era, constitutional monarchs have extremely limited power, despite all their pomp and privileges. Real power is held by politicians, and they very much need to be prayed for (1 Tim 2:1-2).

During the Queen’s reign, and through no fault of her own, Britain and many Commonwealth societies have in some respects lost their way, spiritually and morally. Modern cultures and societies very much need to rediscover the living God, as revealed in Christ and the Scriptures.

Some commentators have implicated the Queen in the injustices that were part of imperialism and colonialism. Those injustices, however, largely happened a long time before her, and during her own reign she constructively worked with the process of decolonisation.

All the grief and nostalgia in the United Kingdom and elsewhere at this time is understandable, and no country does ancient tradition and colourful public pageantry quite like Britain.

Our ultimate focus, though, should not be on human leaders. Mortal, imperfect human rulers constantly come and go. But the Lord God alone reigns forever (Psalm 146:10). To the immortal God, the only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, to Him alone be honour and eternal power (1 Tim. 1:17, 6:15-16).

Read The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sermon for The State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Christians, governments, and New Zealand politics

Christians, governments, and New Zealand politics

This last week, supporters of the Tamaki-led Freedoms and Rights Coalition turned up outside Parliament, exercised their right to political protest, acted lawfully and peaceably, declared the Government guilty of crimes against humanity, and announced a new political initiative.

This event raises wider considerations about Christians, governments, and New Zealand politics. Here’s some points to reflect on…

  • Christians are biblically required to submit to the authority of the governing authorities, honour them, pray for them, and be good citizens (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:1,17; 1 Tim 2:1-2).
  • Those biblical injunctions do not mean we have to agree with everything any government says or does. All governments sometimes act wrongly. The New Testament was written in the time of the Roman Empire, which was often idolatrous, unjust, corrupt, and brutal, and – before long – murderously anti-Christian.
  • Also, the biblical requirement to obey and honour those who govern does not mean believers should ever deny Christ or do evil, even if the authorities try to compel us to do so. The Lord of heaven and earth must always take precedence over human rulers (Dan 6:6-10; Acts 5:29).
  • God’s people remain free to speak up. There are numerous biblical examples, including Moses, Daniel, Esther, and Paul.
  • In a parliamentary democracy, we get to help choose our government, and have the right to have input into some laws before they are passed.
  • We live in a society which is increasingly pluralistic in belief and lifestyle. Christians cannot expect that the rest of society will see matters the same way we do.
  • Biblically, there are values which every Christian should continue to live by and advocate for: God’s truth and grace, righteousness, justice, mercy, integrity, compassion, peace, generosity, care for the poor, faithful marriage, good parenting, strong family life, morality, the sanctity of life, care for creation, and love and respect for everyone.
  • There are likewise many things Christians should resist, on biblical grounds: inequality (the deepening disparities between the poor and the well-off), inadequate housing, racism, exploitation, corruption, immorality, the promotion in schools of confusion about gender, the ongoing degradation of the environment, the killing of the unborn, the expansion of euthanasia, and the promotion of harmful drugs.
  • The NZ Bill of Rights declares that we have freedom of religious belief and practice, and freedom of expression. Christians, among others, have cause to feel that those freedoms are under some threat.
  • There are good and not-so-good things in the values and policies of all political parties, and very well-intentioned MPs in all parties.
  • There is no one political stance among Christians, and Christians vote across the political spectrum.
  • Political parties may propose laws, and may push them through if they have a majority, but laws are passed by Parliament rather than by political parties. To get better laws in “conscience” issues, and to help dissuade other MPs Parliament from passing detrimental legislation, we need a greater number of capable, committed Christians in Parliament, in all parties. Candidate selection is thus critically important.
  • Politics is “the art of the possible”. We should aim high, but not place unrealistic expectations on Christian MPs. They can only achieve what is politically achievable.
  • Only those politicians who are actually in Parliament can make a difference. Even under MMP, small parties very rarely make it into Parliament, or remain there.
  • We should regularly pray for our MPs, Christian and otherwise.

Ultimately, the road to a better New Zealand is not political, but spiritual. It is in renewed and flourishing Christian churches, and in a new wave of Christian faith across wider New Zealand society.

Questions for all New Zealand churches

Questions for all New Zealand churches

New Zealand Christian Network suggests that the growing public scrutiny of churches raises important broader questions for all New Zealand churches irrespective of their denomination, size, style, ethnicity or location.

Questions like…

  • How can our churches become thoroughly biblical, not just in our teaching and preaching, but also in our values, practices, and our life together?
  • How can our churches concentrate on honouring Christ above all, and everyone who belongs to Christ (and avoid giving a too much special prestige and privilege to our human leaders, no matter how excellent they are)?
  • How can our churches be places of welcome, invitation, prayer, worship, Bible teaching, and spiritual nurture (and without undue pressure, coercion, or judgment)?
  • How can our churches be more effectively pastoral?
  • How can our churches be generous, supportive and realistic in what we expect of both staff and volunteers, always recognising that they all have lives and many other needs and responsibilities beyond the church?
  • How can our churches develop appropriate accountability for leaders at every level?
  • How can our churches build good processes for participation, questions, feedback, suggestions, complaints, and correctives?

To Christ be glory in the church!

Being constructively Christian, in a changing culture

Being constructively Christian, in a changing culture

In countries dominated by western culture, there continues to be admiration for compassion, and respect for honesty, integrity, and humility. But there is no doubt that recent cultural trends in western countries no longer give general support to Christian faith and to many other Christian values. This affects how Christians and churches are viewed, and also how many Christians themselves think and act.

Scepticism about Christianity (on both scientific and ethical grounds) has become increasingly fashionable, and Christians in public life are increasingly subject to suspicion. Contemporary post-modernist thinking assumes that truth is subjective and uncertain, and that truth is whatever you choose it to be. Christian truth claims can thus be seen as over-confident, or arrogant.

Individualism and consumerism emphasise the centrality of self and the primacy of individual choice. The priority of personal happiness and pleasure is rarely questioned. Calls to holiness or righteousness are mocked. Christian beliefs about gender, sex, or marriage (views which were shared by most societies until very recently) are increasingly reproached as unloving, harmful, and unable to be tolerated. Churches can variously be regarded as outmoded, empty, irrelevant, narrow-minded, or dangerous.

In the context of our changing, less Christian-friendly context, Christians should not be intimidated, or become weakened in faith. We must remain faithful to Christ and the word. We must also think carefully about what we believe, and how we live and express that. We need…

  • to beware of becoming conformed to this world (Rom 12:2)
  • to be deeper into the scriptures (Ps 119:11)
  • to be a people of constant prayer (Eph 6:18)
  • to reflect Christ in all we do and say (Matt 5:13-16)
  • to be loving, not a clanging gong (1 Cor 13:1)
  • to be humble (James 4:6)
  • to be thoughtful, gentle, and respectful in how we speak about our faith (1 Pet 3:15)
  • to be good citizens (Rom 13:1), above reproach (1 Pet 3:16-17, 4:15)
  • to be peace-makers (Matt 5:19)
  • to live peacefully with everyone so far as it depends on us (Rom 12:18)
  • to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21)
  • to recognise all Christians as part of the same body of Christ (Eph 4:3-6)

to receive the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17), which is ‘pure, …peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’.

Praying for mental health, in our troubled New Zealand society

Praying for mental health, in our troubled New Zealand society

Every Monday night, between 8.00 pm and 9.00 pm, many people connected with NZCN join on-line with others in Pray As One NZ. This is a wonderful opportunity to pray together with fellow Christian believers from all over New Zealand, from all sorts of churches and backgrounds. If you haven’t come on to PrayAsOne already, we warmly invite you to do so. This is the link.

Each week Pray As One has a focus on a different topic.

Last Monday’s topic was mental health. In our fallen, flawed humanity, no one is immune to mental health struggles. Underlying predispositions, rejection, loneliness, loss, life crises, fractured relationships, addictions, stress, anxiety, moral confusion, and the lessening of Christian faith or hope – any of those (and many other things) could be risk factors.

Some of the prayer points mentioned on Pray As One this week were along these lines. You might like to pray them too.

We pray…

  • For those who feel desperate, and without hope
  • For the healing of inner brokenness
  • For those who are considering suicide
  • For those who live with someone else with mental health issues
  • For frontline workers and counsellors in the mental health field, for great wisdom, and their own wellbeing
  • For Christians to impart comfort and hope in a loving, sensitive way
  • For churches to be places of acceptance and love
  • For the Holy Spirit to speak grace, truth and hope into many lives
  • For the Lord to bring a new wave of hope sweeping over the young people of New Zealand, through a great spiritual work bringing many to life and wholeness in Jesus.
There is more than one side to the abortion issue

There is more than one side to the abortion issue

The decision of the USA’s Supreme Court to overturn Wade v Roe and the nationwide “constitutional right” to abortion has been met with dismay and outrage by many people, both in the USA and beyond. Many are understandably upset at the winding back of what they consider an inalienable woman’s right: the right of any woman to end any unwanted pregnancy with an abortion.

The public and political rhetoric in the USA and in New Zealand has tended to be quite one-sided, with an emphasis on women having autonomy over their own bodies and about abortion being simply a women’s health measure.

We acknowledge that many women who seek an abortion do so with distress, because they feel alone or abandoned, or because they feel it is too difficult for them to proceed to birthing and raising their child.

The claim, however, that abortion is purely is a woman’s health measure is clearly untrue. Abortion can never be just a woman’s health measure, because abortion invariably involves another person, an unborn human being whose life is being deliberately ended by those who have already been born. Whatever the law of any country may say or allow, abortion remains a profound ethical issue. Particular societies, ethicists, and individuals may weigh differently the competing rights of women and unborn babies, but the moral issues are not in any way erased by legal and parliamentary decisions, or by the pronouncements of politicians.

New Zealand’s previous abortion legislation at least tried to balance the rights of women and the unborn. In practice, however, we ended up with something very close to abortion on demand. New Zealand’s new abortion law in 2020 was passed by the margin of 68 to 51. Sadly, the new law contains no recognition at all of the rights of an unborn child. Politically, the new law may endure. But the deep ethical issues around abortion continue, and public discourse needs to more generous in acknowledging that.