Brexit – A Disaster or an Opportunity?
With the unexpected outcome of the Brexit referendum fresh in people’s minds just now, uncertainty seems to be reigning supreme – across the United Kingdom, across Europe … indeed around the globe. And the truth is that most people simply don’t cope all that well with the fear of uncertainty. But therein lies an enormous opportunity. Here’s why:
Has the World Gone Mad?
When I was a lad, my father kept chickens in the backyard. It was a special treat indeed when he would kill one so that we could have roast chicken for Sunday lunch. So, not surprisingly, one of the enduring memories of my childhood is seeing a headless chicken – freshly executed by dear old dad – running around the backyard flapping its wings.
Who could forget that?
And honestly, the world’s reaction to the Brexit decision reminds me powerfully of that headless chook. Uncertainty has a way of getting us to panic irrationally, running around in ever decreasing circles.
Of course, the media thrives on this sort of stuff. The more it can beat a story up, the more dire scenarios it can paint in our minds … the more papers it will sell; the higher the ratings will be; the more they can charge for their advertising space. News editors around the world are revelling in the present field of uncertainty as they see the pounds, the dollars, the rupees and the pesos rolling in.
And to be sure, there are a good many imponderables.
- Will the United Kingdom fall apart as Northern Ireland and Scotland reconsider their positions?
- Will the European Union itself start to disintegrate?
- What will all that do to the value of the pound longer term? To the cost of basic household necessities? To the lives of ordinary working men and women struggling to eek out an existence?
- What will this mean for the economies of Europe? For the global economy?
- How will this all change the balance of power between East and West?
… just to name a few of the questions unsettling people and markets around the globe.
Such fertile ground for scare-mongering, don’t you think? No wonder people are worried.
Let’s face it, which of us likes uncertainty? Generally what we tend to do, is that we imagine all the things that could possibly go wrong in answer to each of those questions … and then, somehow in our minds, we imagine that they’ll all go wrong to the maximum possible extent, at the same time.
Perhaps Chicken Little was right. Perhaps the sky is about to fall in.
So Let’s Just Get a Firm Grip on Reality
The historical truth is that alliances, countries, borders … have always changed over time. The Roman Empire is a thing of the past. So is Nazi Germany. So, by the way, is the British Empire – remembering that at one stage, England had pretty much colonised half of the globe.
Things change. They always have … they always will, until the Lord returns. We just happen to be in the middle of one of those times of change.
And, putting things into perspective, thank God that the UK isn’t going through what the former Yugoslavia had to go through, to achieve its change, amen?!
So, here’s the reality. In three years time – Scotland will be in pretty much the same place as it’s always been – whether or not it’s a part of the UK. And although possible, it’s fairly unlikely that there’ll be a modern-day Hadrian’s Wall built to separate the two.
The same with England, the two Irelands (separated or united) and Wales.
The English people will be the resilient we will fight them on the beaches people that they’ve always been. Or do we really expect the Poms (as a convict from the colonies I use that term with great affection) to stop singing “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule Britannia” on the last night of the Proms? Really?!!
Will things be different? Of course they will. No doubt some things will be slightly better, while other things will be slightly worse. But then there’s nothing new in any of that. As I said, historically speaking, allegiances and boundaries, kingdoms and dominions, have been in a constant state of flux for pretty much as long as human beings have walked the earth.
And right now, in the middle of the mayhem and the hysteria, I think that there exists a serious opportunity for the men and women of God to witness something of His love and His power into their community – particularly, might I say, in the UK and across Europe.
The Opportunity in the Midst of the Mayhem
The one thing for certain is that God hasn’t fallen off His twig as a result of Brexit.
I know that if you’re living in one of the economically depressed parts in the North of England, or hanging onto a job for dear life in Scotland, or trying to manage on a pension in Northern Ireland, man this whole Brexit thing is something that you need like a hole in the head right now.
I get that.
But have a listen to the prayer that Daniel prayed, as God gave him the wisdom to make sense of a pagan king’s dreams. A king who, by the way, had the power of life and death over him:
Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him. To you, O God of my ancestors, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and power, and have now revealed to me what we asked of you, for you have revealed to us what the king ordered. (Daniel 2:20-23)
Daniel went on to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and as a result of his God-given wisdom, insight and understanding was lifted up into a place of influence and power. (I wonder if there isn’t a message there in that for you and me amidst all this uncertainty.)
All too often we Christians cloister ourselves away in our holy huddles only to over-spiritualise things. Or we go out and do a bunch of good deeds, without ever using the opportunity to introduce people to the God who put His love into our hearts in the first place.
Either way, instead of being God’s meaning-makers in society, the way Daniel was in his context, we botch the opportunity to share God’s wisdom into the things that are really in people’s hearts and on their minds.
Question: whether you live in the UK or elsewhere in the world, how are you responding to Brexit? With doom and gloom? With criticism and fear? Or is your perspective predicated on the fact that come what may, your King reigns?
God changes times and seasons. He deposes one king and raises up another. He gives wisdom to the wise. He arranges times and places and the borders on the earth with a singular purpose:
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26,27)
In other words all of history, all the events great and small, all the ebbs and flows of kingdoms and borders, alliances and conflicts … are simply a backdrop to God’s purpose of winning souls to Himself. That’s what it’s all about.
And right now, wherever you live, there is uncertainty sweeping the globe. In Britain and Europe, it’s Brexit. Here in Australia, as I write this blog, we’re a week away from electing a new Federal Government – with many people despairing at the state of politics. In the US it’s Donald and Hillary – indeed the whole world waits with bated breath on the outcomes of the US Presidential race.
If we believe in Jesus, we need to ask ourselves, with what perspective am I approaching all this uncertainty?
Am I just another one of the punters wallowing in all the bad things that might happen? Am I whinging and complaining, speaking into the doom and gloom, criticising and castigating? (Well, are you?!)
Or does my approach, predicated as it is on the absolute sovereignty of God, speak a quiet assurance into the lives of the people around me? Am I somehow different – not in a belligerent way, not in an over-spiritual, Loony Tunes kind of a way – but in a real practical way, in helping people to navigate these uncertain times?
Because let me tell you, your King reigns! Your God is on His throne! None of what is going on in the world at the moment is a surprise to Him and right now, He is looking for His people to make a difference, by speaking His practical love and wisdom into the uncertainty and the fear that’s reverberating around the globe.
What you and I do in these uncertain times, the things we choose to say, our demeanour, our approach to all this doom and gloom – says everything about what we believe about our God. It says everything about the extent to which we believe that God is in the business of drawing people to Himself.
After all, that’s the whole point of history – to provide a canvass for His redemptive love to take effect in the lives of the common ordinary people of this world. People like you and me.
Yep. Brexit is an enormous opportunity. The question is, how many of us will grab it with both hands in order to glorify our God.
Finishing Off On a Lighter Note
And just to finish this blog off, let me say I have an enormous confidence too, in the ability of the British people to be resilient and resourceful, buoyed as they have always been, by their courage and their splendidly unique sense of humour.
So, when it comes to the European Idea, I shall allow Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes Minister fame to have the final say: