The political message of Easter
Writing exclusively for Endeavour Public Affairs, Gary Streeter MP, reflects on the message of Easter and its relevance to politics today. In his article he writes that the message of hope is central to the Easter story. Jesus’ resurrection created the chance of salvation, and demonstrated that in moments of utter darkness, the impossible could become possible. Today, perhaps more than usual, it is important to hold on to that message.
Gary Streeter is the Conservative Member of Parliament for South West Devon and is Chairman of the Christians in Parliament All-Party Parliamentary Group.
To follow Gary Street on Twitter – @garystreetermp
For many people, Easter is a time to celebrate: The ending of winter and the coming of spring; the possibility of new life; the sense of promise these things bring. For Christians, Easter signals a change in the course of history. It remembers that when Jesus’ body hung limp and lifeless, when the very people he had come to save cheered earnestly for him to die, God did not shrug his shoulders, walk away and say ‘well, they asked for it’. No; when naturally it seemed time to abandon hope, Jesus made a way for every individual on the planet to be saved.
The message of hope is central to the Easter story. Jesus’ resurrection created the chance of salvation, and demonstrated that in moments of utter darkness, the impossible could become possible. Today, perhaps more than usual, it is important to hold on to that message. It is a difficult moment in British history; the UK is facing a testing debt crisis, and there is unemployment and hardship in many communities. Yet, the Easter message teaches us not to become bogged down in tough circumstances, or ‘irresolvable’ crises, but to believe that in times of trouble, things can turn around.
In the Easter story, history changed when Jesus became willing to sacrifice himself: The hope of resurrection arose from his readiness to die for the good of others. Jesus’ actions provide us with an excellent example of the type of leadership to which we should all aspire. They call us to consider the public good before all else, and to seek out the best interests of those we serve. When I look around the Commons, I am encouraged to see so many of my colleagues doing just that; from speaking out against human trafficking injustices to fighting for the rights of the vulnerable within their constituencies.
We see selflessness in many of our great public figures too. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, last year, commemorated the life of a remarkable woman who has spent 60 years serving the nation. Through thousands of national and international visits, and countless public engagements, the Queen has shown a determination to celebrate the best in communities, and reach out to people from all walks of life. Her commitment has united the nation, and spurred on the work of many organisations which are vital to national life.
These are sure examples of how the life of one person can have an extraordinary effect. Translated into society as a whole, I believe that a willingness to give of ourselves for the good of others can transform society too. We saw it in London 2012, when 70,000 Games Makers rallied together to make the Olympics a success; and no-one could believe how smoothly it ran. We see it every day in our local communities, where the work of organisations such as Foodbank and Christians Against Poverty, is powerful in affecting change in the most difficult circumstances. If that same spirit of sacrifice could be multiplied on an even greater scale within localities, imagine the powerful influence it could have over the way schools, hospitals and public services are run.
For me, the Easter message is exciting because it is ultimately about redemption: Jesus’ actions said that no one life was unreachable. In the political sphere, we must work with that same expectation that the lives and communities we live in can be turned around. The Government’s message of individual aspiration is important in that respect. It affirms the idea that no-one is a write off. It encourages the raising of people’s expectation, and it paints the possibility of a future for them which they cannot paint for themselves.
Jesus did this in his own ministry. His 12 disciples were not the theological or political elite of the day, but a handful of fishermen, and a former tax collector. They were not the obvious choice to become the first Christian leaders of the new millennia, but Jesus saw their potential: One would become known as the rock of the church, another would write the gospel of Matthew. It is amazing what is possible when you help someone find the spark of creativity, entrepreneurship and industry within themselves.
The prominent atheist, Philip Pullman, recently acknowledged that Jesus told great stories. He believed they were so great, in fact, that they should be taught to children. The Easter story does have a lot to teach, not only about the importance of hope and sacrifice, but about the possibility of turning lives around. Yet, in recognising what we can learn from the Easter message, we mustn’t forget the most important point: That it is actually true. The real significance of Jesus’ actions lay not in the example they gave, but in the possibility they created for relationship with God.
Published: Wednesday 27 March 2013
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