Politics is important and Christians should care about it. Politics is not the ultimate thing, none of the solutions that it can achieve are ultimate solutions, but it should matter deeply to us because politics impacts on every human being. And every human being is made in God's image, holds immense dignity and we are therefore called to love them.
We can't easily love our neighbour if we steer clear of the thing that affects them the most. Politics is about how we order our society and it's part of the way we live out our faith because God cares about the details of our daily lives.
When it comes to politics, I am certain that Christians must not panic, but that we must care and care deeply.
If you are reading this article then I will assume that you already have some sort of interest in politics.
For 2022, where can you engage that interest?
In the book of Exodus we see Moses arguing with God that he is the wrong person to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. "Who am I to do that?" he asks. God answers him, almost comically: "What's in your hand?" Moses had a shepherd's staff in his hand. A stick. A stick which God used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt...
So what's in your hand today?
Where has God placed you? What injustices can you see in your community that nag away at you? What has He placed on your heart?
Here are some ideas for the new year:
Think about the issues you care about. Pick one and seek to understand it: find out where it is being discussed, listen to the debates, make yourself better informed, and perhaps enter into the process by writing to your MP or local councillor with your concerns. Go and meet them at their surgery.
Look around you: where do you interact with your community? Your church, workplace or place of study, your children's school? The local shop, green spaces, public transport, the doctor's surgery? What do you spend your time on, where does this take you? These are all our 'ordinary' places, where we live, work and play. Wherever God has placed you, you can be his hands and feet in your community. Who can you talk to, engage with, what issues need resolving?
In Romans, Paul explains the nature of human sin, the just but horrific consequences of that sin, and then gives us the good news of God's mercy to us in Jesus. Having set all of this out, he begins chapter 12 saying '..in view of God's mercy.. offer your bodies as a living sacrifice..' Being a living sacrifice is something we do in light of God's mercy towards us, and being a living sacrifice surely means serving wherever we are placed. What would that service look like?
Prayer should always be the first, last and continuous thing we do as Christians: prayer for guidance, for wisdom, for God's perspective on the issues we face. Pray for God to reveal to you an issue where you could focus your attention. In my weekly podcast, A Mucky Business – now entering its third season, I try and ask my guests what we can be praying for, and close in prayer. Prayer is the power of God in every situation. So, please, pray for your politicians - local and national. Pray for wisdom for the issues they grapple with. And encourage your church to pray regularly for them too.
You may feel that what you do is unimportant. But remember that God told Zechariah not to despise the day of small things. Often we look to Daniel as a bold example of faith, obedience and sacrifice – a believer in high office whose love for God led him to take a terrifying stand. What rarely gets mentioned though, is that as far as we know, Daniel served quietly, diligently, effectively for years if not decades in Babylon before the lion's den episode.
So as we face 2022, can I challenge you to pick one issue to engage with this year, be it local, national or international. Be willing to get your hands dirty and your heart broken as – in the light of God's mercy to you - you seek to love your neighbour through this mucky business of politics.
Inform yourself, pray for wisdom and guidance, pray for those involved and see where God will take you.... and why not tell us about where that takes you? I'd love to hear your stories.
Tim Farron has been the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005, and served as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2015 to 2017. Tim is also the host of Premier's 'A Mucky Business' podcast, which unpacks the murky world of politics and encourages believers around the UK to engage prayerfully. Season 3 starts January 2022, you can listen on your chosen podcast provider.