Living with grey

Even for those who believe unfashionably in absolute truth and absolute error (notably we orthodox Christians), mature engagement with the world demands a basic recognition that some things really are grey, almost never black and white. That’s especially so of people, and the systems they form in plurality.

I presume that most people who’ve been Christians for more than 5 minutes would be well aware of this reality of life in the world of this age (i.e. between the Cross and the Lord’s return in glory), and that a glance in the mirror alone would remind them, especially if accompanied by reflection on the Scriptures and/or the self-examination that rightly occurs when believers confess their sins together as they gather for worship. Yet it both strikes and puzzles me that political discussions seem to possess a capacity at times to drive even very thoughtful, mature and intelligent believers to a kind of trench warfare that presumes every politician is either a goody or a baddy, devoid of nuance.

The events of last week in the Australian Federal Parliament, specifically the exchange between Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Julia Gillard over Peter Slipper as Speaker, seem to have produced this effect dramatically. I’ve nearly lost count of the number of discussions I’ve scrolled through on social media, in which death-or-glory type positions have been adopted, demanded and zealously expounded. Depending on which trench one is fighting in, it’s either that Ms Gillard has seized the high ground of principle over the base misogyny of the now exposed Mr Abbott, or that she has shown herself the ultimate pragmatist devoid of all principle in the face of true moral courage. With that seems to go, whether explicitly or implicitly, a righteous certainty that one must be respected and the other despised. A bit of both, it seems, is not possible.

So I’m perplexed. For in Scripture itself and all history since, God who alone ultimately determines who’s in authority, persists in raising up the most complex people to employ for his sovereign purposes in the world of people and nations. He vests authority in people such as Cyrus who don’t even honour Him as the one true God, and high esteem in Kings like David, notwithstanding the grossest of sin. Christians should remember that the only messiah the world ever had, and will ever need, is the Saviour from Heaven. All the rest are much like me. But the real power is in the safest of hands.

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