Engaging with your local MP
We are accustomed to people having a variety of leanings and dispositions in church life – people feel a sense of burden for differing ministries. However, amongst these there must be an intelligent interest in the role and work of those in authority over us. How else can we meaningfully pray for them, as we are exhorted to do in 1 Timothy 2:1-4?
- I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
In order to fulfil this command I suggest three activities.
Find out the basics about how MPs and AMs work, perhaps by using the following websites: www.parliament.uk for the UK as a whole, www.wales.gov.uk for the Welsh Assembly Government. Then keep abreast of issues which concern Christians. The general media cannot be relied upon to provide this awareness, as their coverage is mainly orientated towards the interests of those who do not know God. In God’s providence, there are many good sources of information about matters of relevance to Christians. Two examples are the Christian Institute (www.christian.org.uk) and Christian Concern for our Nation (www.ccfon.org), who offer weekly email updates. The Christian Institute also provides materials for those without internet access (call them on 0191 281 5664 for more details). Find out about your local politicians. Who are they? What really matters to them?
Fulfil the biblical injunction by praying. Pray regularly about the things that you are informed about. This will help to dispel any feelings of hopelessness that might otherwise prevail. Thank God that He is supremely sovereign over all the affairs of men. Praise God for our heritage and the many freedoms and privileges that we continue to enjoy. Pray for sensitivity of conscience and salvation for those who rule over us. Pray for Christians in government, that they would be winsome and bold, and stand firm on the truths of God’s word. There are national prayer groups in England and Wales for Christian politicians and civil servants – pray that these may be richly blessed by God. Bring these matters to your church prayer meeting so that more Christians are aware of what’s going on and can pray in an informed way.
The organisations mentioned above (and others like them) will give you advice in helping you to write letters and influence your local politicians. You should also meet your politicians through their regular local surgeries which exist for this purpose. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Why not take it further and invite your politicians to a meeting at election time to give Christians the opportunity to ask them about issues that the media don’t usually cover? Or invite a politician to meet with a smaller group of Christians from your church in your home? Remember that politicians are real people! I was part of a small group of Christians that did this and God enabled us to take opportunities to explain the gospel in response to a politician’s personal questions.
Be prepared for when politicians and their staff come knocking at your door at election time. Prepare some questions ready to ask them; questions which raise issues of concern to Christians but are also on their agenda. Politicians regularly send out updates to households which ask constituents about matters of concern to them – respond to them. Look on the government websites (see above) for public consultations and respond to those that concern you. For example, the Welsh Assembly Government recently consulted on its sexual health strategy and a number of Christians responded. In an age of apathy, Christians who seize these opportunities can have an influence out of all proportion to their numbers.
Be salt and light
Such action is consistent with the biblical injunction to be salt and light, as Matthew 5:13-16 says:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
If the world see us standing by whilst ungodly laws are conceived and passed, we are offering an incomplete witness that lacks coherence and integrity. Why should they then attach any significance to our evangelism? Our biblical response to these issues is inseparable from our gospel witness. It is not a case of one or the other.
In conclusion, all of this is pretty basic: being aware, prayerful and active. Of all people, we should be conspicuous by our respect for politicians in this cynical age. We should offer respect, because we believe that God has placed them in their position – regardless of their decisions, as Romans 13:6-7 reminds us:
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
This respect and genuine interest in those in authority over us, as people and souls that God sustains, should distinguish us and give us solid opportunities to witness and influence.
Jonathan Isaacs is a member of The Bay Church, Cardiff.