Dr Gordon Macdonald: Rulers can forget that they will be accountable to Jesus

Dr Gordon Macdonald is Parliamentary Officer of CARE for ScotlandDr Gordon Macdonald is Parliamentary Officer of CARE for Scotland
Dr Gordon Macdonald is Parliamentary Officer of CARE for Scotland
At this time of year, Christians remember the ascension of Jesus which occurred 40 days after his resurrection. The Bible tells us that having ­taken his disciples out to the Mount of Olives, Jesus ascended into heaven and was hidden from their sight by a cloud. A couple of angels appeared to the disciples and told them that Jesus would return in the same manner in which He had departed.

Elsewhere in the Bible, we are ­given prophetic descriptions of what ­happened next. Daniel described the entry of Jesus into the presence of God the Father. The Apostle John saw Jesus in the centre of the throne in heaven with all authority having been given to Him.

Both Psalm 2 and the book of ­Revelations make clear that it is Jesus who controls the ­destiny of nations and who is the ultimate judge of all human beings, including kings and those with ­temporal political authority.

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It is easy to understand why this teaching was considered subversive by the Roman authorities who persecuted the early Christians. The Roman emperors declared themselves to be divine and demanded that everyone acknowledge this claim as an expression of political loyalty.

The early Church was unwilling to worship the Roman emperors, because they knew that there was another whom they should worship and that one day Jesus would return both as King and as judge. Secular authority should be exercised with this reality in mind. Christians were to submit to, honour and pray for the governing authorities. Civil authorities had a God-given mandate to punish evil and to promote the common good.

This mandate should be respected, but Christians should not worship the secular authority nor acquiesce with its totalitarian claim.

The same principle applies today. In societies with a Christian heritage, we reject the notion that ­absolute power should reside in one individual. We recognise that those who rule us should be accountable and that they are given political power in order to serve the public good, rather than for personal gain.

Government, although fallible, has a noble purpose with authority to govern being given for the ­benefit of the whole of society. Ultimately all those who govern will have to give account to God for how they have exercised their mandate. That is ­reassuring, because it means that even the most autocratic and brutal dictators will be brought to justice.

General elections are the means by which we apply this principle of accountability in our temporal context. Every few years we get the opportunity to pass judgement upon the track record of those who have been entrusted with political power.

If the electorate broadly likes what the Government has done, then there is a good chance that it will be given a mandate to govern for another five years. If the public is dissatisfied with the Government’s performance, the likelihood is that people will vote for an alternative. For Christians, the general election poses a dilemma and a challenge. Huge shifts are occurring in society and culture which affect the political climate.

The Christian worldview is no longer understood or articulated by many politicians. It is being replaced by an atheistic and intolerant secularism in the public life of our nation. Increasingly, the state makes totalitarian claims for our loyalty with freedom of conscience being over-ridden in the pursuit of the Government’s social objectives. An erroneous view is being promoted that the Christian faith has no dependable foundations and is a purely personal matter with no element of public truth.

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If we consider the implications of this trend, then we might take time to pause for thought. Rejection of the Christian worldview, includes rejection of the view that there are limits placed on the power of those who govern, that human governance has a God-given mandate to restrain evil, uphold objective right and serve the common good, that rulers will be held to account and that there will be justice for all the victims of the abuse of power.

The ascension of Jesus reminds us that we all, and not least those who exercise political authority, will ­ultimately be held to account and that this is a historical certainty.

It presents the promise of an ­eternal society in which there is no more death or suffering, but rather ­justice, indescribable joy and ­absolute ­fulfilment for those who willingly submit to the governance of Jesus Christ. That is a manifesto worth supporting.

Dr Gordon Macdonald is ­parliamentary officer of CARE for Scotland. CARE has launched a helpful election resource www.engage17.org.uk

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