I’m sure many of us read the article that appeared in The Guardian over Easter, ‘David Cameron’s Wonky Cross’, and had an opinion. I for one found it refreshing and, frankly, dead on! The editor’s observation that Christians are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to voting is exactly the message that Current are promoting in this election run up. The editor writes:
‘Even the smallest of the mainline churches have memberships larger than that of the political parties. The Church of England alone has twice as many people in church every Sunday as pay their subscriptions to all the political parties put together. There are at least five million active Christians in England today, and they represent a pool of committed and energetic voters that no party can ignore. They won’t all vote as a bloc, but within the existing blocs they will put in more effort, and perhaps more money, than any other group.’
What an exciting prospect! And what responsibility we have, as members of the Church in England, to vote, and to vote wisely. But there was another aspect to the article that I found challenging; an observation the editor has made, not just of David Cameron but of Christians in this country in general, and it is how we respond to the grace that we’ve been shown by the God that we say we love, that we say we want to show to the rest of our country.
In an interview with Premier Christianity, Cameron said that ‘the values of Easter and the Christian religion [are] compassion, forgiveness, kindness, hard work and responsibility’. Whilst the writer of ‘David Cameron’s Wonky Cross’ has chosen to – perhaps unfairly – exclude the first three of these values, the critique of the final two, ‘hard work and responsibility’ really challenged me. If we really believe that two of the main values of Christianity are hard work and responsibility, then haven’t we missed the fundamental, life-changing power of grace?
The point of Easter is that God gave us what we absolutely didn’t deserve. No amount of work, or responsibility taking, or indeed compassion, forgiveness or kindness on our part would be enough to save us. Ephesians 2:8 says ‘8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.’
But how does this undeserved grace translate to how we treat others? How does it affect the way we view immigrants, the homeless, people who are on benefits? The value of hard work, of getting exactly what you deserve, no more, no less, is inherent in our culture. And hard work is important. Earning money, paying taxes is important. Jesus said as much, but he spent so much more time talking with prostitutes, widows, cheats, liars, cripples – people who were doing absolutely nothing to benefit society, people who really didn’t deserve to be met with, ministered to, even healed by Jesus Christ.
The article argues that, ‘surveys show that ordinary Christians are consistently to the right of their clergy on many questions: the clergy runs food banks while the pews are full of people muttering against scroungers who believe that poverty is the fault of the poor.’ Whilst this is quite a hyperbolic argument, and is not, I believe, a fair representation of the Christians I know at least, if one writer believes that this is happening in the Church, then it is worth thinking about and taking seriously.
Grace is not just a nice concept. It’s not reserved just for Christians who recognise that they can’t do anything to earn their salvation. I believe it is something that we should be practising on a daily, and political basis. I want to see a shift in culture to a grace-filled society, where we are able to bless and help those who look as if they don’t deserve anything. As Christians, if we vote for grace, then we are showing grace and that is, after all, what we have been called to do.