Take the Long View

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So Australia has yet another new Prime Minister. It seems that no sooner have we settled into getting used to one leader of the country then we get a new one. Here’s the BBC’s attempt to set out the timeline…

What’s driving all this turnover? If you work your way through the narratives and accounts (with the benefit of hindsight for all those involved) you see a common theme. Pretty much every time we had a leadership change it was catalysed by the realisation that the party in question was behind in the opinion polls and so MPs, nervous about the declining prospects of re-election, decide to change horses midstream and it appears that we’re doing it far more often than we used to.

So listening to the radio this weekend I heard complaint after complaint about how foolish these politicians were. Why do they allow the polls to sway them so quickly? Why don’t they honour the choices that the electorate made at the last General Election? After all, the next one comes around soon enough (every three years here in Australia) – let the people decide again.

Now we might argue that this misunderstands the nature of a Westminster system of government (in that we vote for our local members, not for the Prime Minister) but that’s not the line I want to push down today. Rather, as I sat and listened to the talk shows over the past few days I heard voter after voter blame politicians for what was, essentially, our own fault.

Yes politicians react to polls. Of course they do! Their number one priority is to remain elected so that they can implement the policies that they believe are best for the nation (or at least the policies that they think both they and the electorate can stomach). We’re the ones who respond to the pollsters. They ask us the questions and we tell them what we’re thinking. The politicians then read those polls to find out what we’re thinking. We can’t complain that the politicians don’t listen to us and then complain when they do! The slightest hint that our leaders can’t deliver on a promise and we’ll move onto the next one. We take such a short view of things.

So we’re the problem! All of us together. We’re a society that increasingly wants a rapid result in every aspect of our life and that feeds through into how we judge politics. We expect a new government initiative to provide returns quicker than it takes to receive our chicken nuggets at the drive-through or select a new streaming TV series to binge watch. But the big things of life don’t work that way. They take time. Cut company taxes and it takes several years for the extra investment and employment to arrive. Reduce emissions and it might be a decade or more before the atmosphere shows evidence of a change.

And yet we want instant results. When they don’t arrive the polls nosedive. At that point you can’t blame the politicians for picking a new leader. They’re just giving us what we’ve asked them for.

Now politics is one thing, our lives are another. I wonder if as Christians we’re in danger of exactly the same sort of short-term thinking? What would it look like if I held Jesus to the same standards that I demand from a Prime Minister? I reckon I’d be calling for a leadership spill far too often. But that would only be because I had utterly unrealistic expectations about what should be happening. Yet I wonder if our increasingly short-term way of looking at things can play out in our spiritual lives? We can so often measure Jesus’ goodness (if you like, his “performance” for us) by the wrong measure. I wait 3 years for a new Prime Minister but possibly only one week for Jesus to turn a situation around for me.

At our church our Growth Groups are diligently working their way through Romans. As we enter chapter 8 it’s fascinating to see what time horizon the Apostle lays out for us when we consider Jesus’ work on our behalf…

Rom. 8:22-25   We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
We wait patiently while the creation groans around us. Every single thing that could go wrong may very well end up happening to us. We may have sufferings but they are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). In the meantime we have the sure and certain knowledge that, because of Christ’s death on the Cross there is now no condemnation for us (8:1) and as we look forward, with the prompting of the Spirit, we see that nothing can prevent God bringing us to glory (8:31 ff.).
But that’s a long way off. If I want quick results I’m going to be disappointed. God doesn’t guarantee to work that way. Of course there is nothing to stop him acting quickly and wonderfully in our lives but the only sure hope we have is that the Cross guarantees we are forgiven and the Resurrection gives certainty that we will be raised.
Now if ever there was delivery on a promise then that was it. Why would we measure Jesus by anything else? Take the long view, Christian.

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  1. James Flavin

    David, a thoughtful piece.

    I wonder if there is a lack of clarity over what we want as Australians that are encouraging some of this?

    Three key stats that show there isn’t a lot any Government can do to make our lives better within a traditional policy framework:

    a) Australia being the second richest country in the world (according to Credit Suisse: https://www.credit-suisse.com/corporate/en/research/research-institute/global-wealth-report.html),
    b) unemployment to be impacting fewer Australians (according to ABS: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0?opendocument&ref=HPKI),
    c) crime, with the exception of sexual crime, on the decrease (ABS again: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4510.0~2017~Main%20Features~Key%20findings~1)

    Without clarity, without some grand ‘We want Australia to be X by 20XX’ target I am not sure there is much for us to rally around a particular political leader for an extended period.

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