Last Friday, January 2, 2004, the new leader of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, Michael Howard, released his “statement of beliefs” in a two page spread in the Times newspaper. For those not familiar with Mr. Howard, he is a former refugee, a barrister and a formidable political figure. The Conservative Party has been regarded by many political commentators as the “natural party of power,” but since Margaret Thatcher was unceremoniously ousted from power as Prime Minister and leader of the party by her own supporters many years ago, the party has been in severe decline.
It has been recently viewed as a party racked with allegations of sleaze, divisions and malcontents and with infighting particularly over membership of the European Union. These self-destruct buttons have seen the new Labor Party have an easy ride and able to run the country without hindrance. But commentators feel that under Mr. Howard, perhaps for the first time in more than a decade, the Conservative Party is more at ease with itself. They point out that it has already started to take on an embattled government which is rocked by divisions over the war in Iraq, tuition fees for university graduates, and the presidential style of administration that has emerged since gaining power in 1997.
In an interview given by leading Conservatives following Mr. Howard’s two page article, the consensus of opinion was that negative campaigning in the future, while not being totally eliminated, was to be subordinated to a more positive political approach. Certainly in the UK, negative campaigning has been a feature of party politics for many years, as the adversarial style of politics has become more and more personal and accusatory. It is perhaps telling that the main party not in power is called the “Opposition” — not the “Cooperation”!
This got me thinking about the parallels with the mission of God’s true Church. We have been given a commission to warn the world. This could be seen by many as negative campaigning. The Ezekiel warning message (Ezekiel 3:16-21) is something that we have to take seriously. It is part of the gospel message of the Kingdom of God, that has to be preached (Matthew 24:14). Before the wonderful world tomorrow can be ushered in, the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord have to be fulfilled, which will be a time of terrible trouble for the modern nations of the houses of Israel and Judah, as well as the entire world.
As we warn the world, some may see this as negative campaigning. At the same time, we have, historically, taught and written about the wonderful world tomorrow that must surely now be just beyond the horizon. Politicians of whatever color or persuasion are always promising us a bright tomorrow, but they rarely deliver. While we may be involved in warning of bad news to come, we also announce the good news, which is as sure as the rising of tomorrow’s sun. The guarantee of the ushering in of God’s Kingdom will be good news for everyone on the face of the earth — not just for the inhabitants of a few select countries.
The vital difference between today’s political leaders and the true Church of God is that we have been privileged to be given answers about the future in God’s Word. Politicians, however well intentioned, are working on their own thoughts, ideas and concepts, which are often at variance with the way of God.
Negative campaigning by the Church? It could be seen by some as just that — but it is a part of our commission and it is accompanied by the most positive campaigning possible — the news of God’s coming Kingdom.
Ultimately, the whole world will be grateful for the fact that some few have had the courage and dedication to continue preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God.