By the end of this week we will have a new government. It might end up being a different party or parties in power. Or it might be more of the same. In fact, it might even be more of the same whoever is elected!
Whatever the outcome, the new government is unlikely to be as oppressive as the Roman government of Jesus’ day, or their local puppet, Herod.
Herod, according to Mark 6.14-29, had, albeit unwillingly, agreed to the execution of John the Baptist. It seems that John’s untimely and unjust death played on his mind. At least that seems to be the most plausible way of explaining his reaction to the miraculous exploits of Jesus and his disciples. He thought that somehow John the Baptist must have been raised from the dead.
However one understands Herod’s explanation of the outbreak of the miraculous, one thing is clear; at a time of political pressure and potential persecution, Jesus determined not only to continue to bring the Kingdom of God to the people, He multiplied His ministry. Mark 6.7-12 records how He launched His disciples into a ministry of preaching, healing and miracles.
The account in Mark 6 reminds us that whatever the political climate, God’s priority is always that of advancing His kingdom amongst the “ordinary” people. The rulers of the kingdoms of this world will make their policies and enact legislation. It is important in a democracy that we as the church play our part. What is even more important is that we do not forget that advancing the kingdom of God is always our main priority. We should neither be distracted nor intimidated by what unfolds in the kingdoms of this world.
What we might also learn from the tale of two kingdoms in Mark 6, is that Jesus decided to multiply His ministry at a time when the greatest prophet up until that time had been beheaded.
There is no doubt that Christians are being persecuted all over the world. It is also true that in our own country there is great concern about the increasingly strident anti-Christian rhetoric and application of the law in the public square.
It would be a mistake however to conclude that we have before us the limited choices of fight or flight. It is important to make our voice heard on issues that concern us. That in itself will not advance the kingdom. Nor, I believe, will it bring a return, at least in the short run, to a society based on Christian values. At the same time, retreating into our Christian shells and allowing, to use the well worn cliche, the four walls of the church building to contain our message, is not an option either.
Times of uncertainty are times not only to continue doing what we have always done. They are times to multiply ministry.
I believe that the days in which we live demand not only a church that stands faithfully for the gospel. They demand a whole army of believers who are prepared to proclaim Christ and release His healing and miraculous power into needy communities. If Jesus saw the need to multiply His ministry through releasing His disciples, how much more us?
Whatever is decided in the United Kingdom this week, the Kingdom of God will not be threatened. And whatever happens, the church should take it as a cue from God to stay focused on raising and releasing disciples into mission.