‘Has it always been like this?’ That is the question swimming around my mind when considering the partisan political climate in New Zealand. Perhaps I am paying more attention than I have before. Perhaps I, along with many others, feel more invested because of what is on the line. On the heels of the barbaric Abortion Legalisation Act 2020, the current government has scheduled a referendum next month where the public will vote on both euthanasia and cannabis legalisations.
For many people on either side of the political aisle, these are issues that not only evoke an intellectual but a strong emotional response. They are ethical issues, not sedentary political preferences. This is about where we draw the line between right and wrong.
Consequently, many of my Christian friends, even those who can be slow to voice their opinions, have been vocal in their criticism or support of varying political groups. They are more animated in their conversation about politics than many other things, and several have talked about the importance of using their vote to make a difference. Indeed, there are Christian political parties using precisely that rhetoric to attract voters.
Let me drop two truth bombs that the church always needs ringing in our ears.
1) You cannot vote New Zealand better.
Before you read any further, please do not think for one moment that I am suggesting Christians should abstain from voting in the referendum. Voting is a gift from God. We live in a democracy and we each have an opportunity to have our voice heard. To not exercise our political freedom by voting, to muffle the voice of truth with laziness, would be a great act of ingratitude to God and a loveless disservice to New Zealand.
I am not saying ‘do not vote’. I am saying do not rely on your vote to change things.
You cannot vote New Zealand out of ethical and moral decline any more than you can cure rabies by wiping the froth from the dog’s mouth. The froth is a symptom of an internal disease. Likewise, ethical decline is a symptom of a deeper problem. New Zealand’s laws are only reflections of its inhabitants’ hearts.
As a result, even if a new party threw their cap in the ring and won this year’s general election and immediately changed all the laws of the country to match Biblical principles, all we would have is a rabid country no longer frothing at the mouth.
I know this is not a very positive read so far, but we need the reminder because the hours Christians are investing reading articles, watching YouTube videos and learning arguments to better debate their political opponents and flaunt their ability to conceal symptoms, could actually be spent in curing the real problem.
2) New Zealand can be cured.
Godless laws are a consequence of godless hearts. The good news of the gospel is that through Jesus Christ, God changes hearts. He makes them new, with new priorities, purpose and prerogatives.
Many people know Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones as a great preacher. Few know that his first prominent public addresses were not sermons, but political speeches given to a literary and debating society for the Welsh community in London.
That society, and community more widely, were generally in favour of Welsh independence. It was believed that if Wales (where chapel attendance was higher than in England) had her own parliament, everything would be better. Dr Lloyd Jones insisted this view was wrong:
“Do not let us delude ourselves into believing that we shall be better Christian men and women merely because we speak Welsh and have a parliament of our own. No, what Wales needs above everything today is not a republic but a revival, a revolution in the sense that we turn back to the things, to the on thing that has made us great. By a revival I do not mean a wave of emotionalism, but a great spiritual awakening…”
The exact same could be said of New Zealand today. What we need is not political change, but radical, widespread heart change and that should excite every Bible believing Christian because we have the cure. We have a gospel to preach. We have a saviour to share. We have the promises and character of our gracious God to trust in.
It is not our vote we should be itching to cast, but God’s word and God’s son into the hearts of our congregations, colleagues, families and neighbours.
Contributor: Geoff Lloyd, Pastor of Wyndham Evangelical Church.