Christians are always expected to pray for our political leaders (1 Timothy 2: 1-4). But, in this Covid-19 season, our prayers have been needed more than ever. Politicians have faced an impossibly steep learning curve as they have struggled to keep citizens alive, healthy, fed and able to survive economically.
In general, people have welcomed strong government taking decisive measures. But how will we fare in the months to come as we
wait for a vaccine or effective treatment to the virus,
face the colossal financial costs and economic shock, and
discover what errors of judgement have inevitably been made?
We have much to pray about and to consider.
While there have been wonderful exceptions, solidarity between European nations has unfortunately been weak. The EU has not had the legal competence to coordinate responses. Trust has been damaged. Some nations are looking after “their own” abroad, e.g. Croat Bosnians or Hungarian Romanians. This could be seen as natural and appropriate. Or it might increase resentment. We need to pray.
Some people can work safely at home or travel by car but many others cannot so must risk infection. Some industries / regions / nations are can survive economically. Others face catastrophe. Tourism and leisure makes up 10% of the economy and employs 22.6 million people in the EU. How many jobs will disappear? How much solidarity will there be within and between nations so that people are saved from destitution and homelessness? Around the world, 265 million people are expected to face acute hunger this year. Will Europeans play their part in preventing starvation?
But we have also witnessed so much kindness between neighbours, and all of us putting life on hold in order to protect the most vulnerable.
Can Christians continue to promote solidarity?
The day of reckoning
Our leaders will be classed as heroes and/or villains, depending on outcomes, perception and experience. But the negative score is likely to dominate as time goes on.
How do we judge our leaders? Accountability is important so let’s be alert for critical voices being silenced. But equally, are those critical voices being responsible? When loved ones are dying, when jobs and homes are being lost, there is inevitably huge emotion and pressure. This season is a perfect opportunity for politicians and extremist groups to manipulate and divide.
So often, the human instinct is to find someone to blame. Already, we see examples of scapegoating or conspiracy theories. Christians? Jews? Muslims? Migrants? Billionaires? A Chinese laboratory? 5G?
Can Christians continue to promote truth?
Responsibility and freedom?
In most European nations, the contract between the State and citizen has changed towards a parent-child relationship. Decisive action has required absolute obedience from people and control by government. Citizens, businesses and organisations, including churches, have accepted their duty to follow tough rules in order to protect fellow citizens.
What should happen as restrictions are loosened and as impatience for normality grows? Will citizens continue to act carefully in order to protect others? Will we want to be adults again, being fully trusted to make sensible decisions for ourselves, calculating risks wisely, always being mindful of others’ safety? Will the State loosen their parental control or hold onto their emergency powers?
Can Christians continue to promote both freedom and responsibility?
Let’s pray for the full restoration of human rights, including freedom of religion, expression and assembly. Let’s ask questions about track & tracing apps. Is our data (e.g. who we meet and where we go) going to be secure and destroyed as soon as necessary? And let’s pray and work to inspire better government in the future, marked by transparency, integrity and partnership with citizens as we share the task of creating flourishing societies.
Hope in a time of fear
A year ago, EEA’s members at our General Assembly came up with a Call to Action looking at safety and security from a biblical perspective. We agreed then that governments cannot guarantee safety and that there is no complete security outside of Jesus and His eternal promises. We committed ourselves
to “live out our biblical hope and values without fear,”
to “find the courage to live sacrificially,”
to “find new ways to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to those around us,”
to “pray boldly for the authorities,” and to partner with them, and
to “communicate a determined trust and faith that there is indeed an end to evil.”
When we agreed this call to action, of course, we had no idea that a pandemic would soon come. But the principles within the text are so relevant now as we navigate our way through the coronavirus storm and start to shape our collective future.
Let’s continue to base all our praying, thinking and acting on the certainty of “certitudo”, the complete security which comes from God’s grace alone.