Protests, confusion and cries of abuse have a common root.
In the week that we have been remembering the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it is appropriate to look at Europe today where we see the widespread rise of protest movements. Luther’s challenge to the practices of the Catholic Church was a direct challenge to its authority. Today we are seeing challenges to authority in almost every part of Europe – but these stem from a very different spirit.
In Britain, our media never ceases to inform us of the chaos and confusion surrounding the Brexit negotiations. The confusion is not just in Westminster; it is also in Brussels. We are facing so many ‘unknowns’ – political, legal, commercial, as well as ideological. Our politicians and media commentators spend their time consulting their crystal balls trying to discern the future, but only succeed in generating greater confusion.
But Britain and the EU are not the only centres of confusion. Throughout Europe there are signs of growing discontent and dissatisfaction with policies that have been followed by traditional leaders for decades.
Uprisings Against Traditional Authority
Young people in particular are exerting influence, rising up to challenge traditional authority. France, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic have all voted for young leaders; part of a populist uprising across Europe.
The Catalan declaration of independence, challenged by the Spanish Government, has rapidly descended into chaos with their leader running away to Brussels. Austria voted last month for Sebastian Kurz, a 31-year-old right-wing leader who is said to be talking to the far-right Freedom Party in an attempt to form a government.
The Czech Republic has also voted for an anti-establishment leader, Andrej Babis, who obtained 30% in last month’s election.
In Germany, the far-right ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) party won 94 seats in the Bundestag in September’s elections, which was the first time any such party has made gains in Germany since the 1930s. In Italy the two northern regions are seeking to organise a referendum to gain greater autonomy and the populist five-star movement (M5S) also elected a 31-year-old leader.
Abuse and Loss of Trust
Back in Westminster, confusion is not confined to the Brexit negotiations: politicians are greatly concerned by allegations of sexual impropriety among MPs, which has attracted much media attention with women queueing up to tell tales to journalists. ‘Someone touched my knee 20 years ago: I lost my confidence and it ruined my life.’ What a load of codswallop! Has the world gone completely mad?
Of course, if there are incidents of serious sexual malpractice or harassment there should be a safe place where complaints can be lodged and dealt with professionally, but the current politically correct hysteria is ridiculous. Is our society not sufficiently adult to be able to sort out relationships between the genders?
Two days ago I was in my study with the door shut and the young woman who does some cleaning for us was hoovering in the dining room. I heard her phone go and then she burst into loud crying. My wife was out so I immediately went to her and between uncontrollable sobs she managed to say that someone in her family had died. I had hardly ever spoken to her before but I simply took her into my arms and let her cry on my shoulder.
When she quietened down I told her I believe in prayer and could I pray for her? She nodded and I prayed, which brought about a total transformation. She said she used to go to Sunday School as a child but hadn’t been to church for years; so I talked about the love of God and gently gave her the Gospel. Far from accusing me of ‘inappropriate behaviour’, she was profuse in her thanks. We were just two human beings – one in distress and the other offering comfort.
Breakdown of Relationships
Surely, all the major problems we see in modern society come down to human relationships which have failed, broken or been abused in some way. The ongoing drama over Brexit and the political instability right across the Western world are but symptoms of this deeper, more systemic problem of human relationships.
In the same way, the current wave of sex scandals delighting the media has its origins in broken human relations – particularly the breakdown of marriage, but also a broader disintegration of trust and commitment to faithful and loving relationships. This is where Christian churches have much to teach secular humanists. In most churches, relationships are a strong uniting factor and churchgoers regularly exchange greetings with hugs or kisses, with no fears of sexual impropriety. Even in Anglican churches, often regarded as formal and cold institutions, sharing ‘The Peace’ is usually an opportunity for hugs all round!
When human relationships are based upon mutual respect and trust, we do not have to worry about political correctness or ‘inappropriate behaviour’. We can just be natural and free from inhibitions and fear of being misunderstood in our relationships with others.
Getting Our Relationship with God Right
But it is vital to recognise that these ideal human relationships are the outcome of a right relationship with God: recognising him as Creator, who made us all (both male and female) in his own image; as Father, who designed us for intimate relationship with him as his sons and daughters; and as Lord, who alone is the true authority, setting out right from wrong and holding us all to account.
When we get our relationship right with God, this automatically puts right our relationships with other human beings, because our whole attitude is different.
We do not seek to ‘lord it’ over others, because we know that we ourselves are no better or worse than they, and all are subject to God. We are enabled to love others and given wisdom to handle difficult times – dealing with differences, misunderstandings, or complex negotiations. Mutual respect in personal relationships leads to the same spirit prevailing over wider issues involving whole communities and nations.
The basic problem in Western society today is that we have abandoned this biblical authority structure – once a fundamental part of our Judeo-Christian moral, social and political foundations, enjoyed by our forefathers. These were passed on to us, but they have been despised and rejected. We have rebelled against God’s good plan, inverting his model for right and blessed relationships and deleting God from the equation.
The Apostle Paul went to the heart of this issue by saying “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Rom 8:7, ESV). The answers to our difficult personal relationships and our complex international relationships all lie in getting our relationship with God right.
It’s worth just meditating on a few verses from Psalm 119:
Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart towards your statutes and not towards selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (vv33-37)
Copyright 2017, Dr Clifford Hill, Prophecy Today UK–All rights reserved