Together, we can do this
Whatever your views on the subject might be, today is ‘Brexit Day’ and, while the future of the UK outside the European Union is yet to be forged, there are two things we can say for sure:
Firstly, this is the day when we formally leave a union of nations to which we have belonged since joining the EU’s forerunner, the European Economic Community, on January 1, 1973. It is a significant moment without precedent. No country has ever left this union.
Secondly, Brexit is far from being ‘done’. Many trade negotiations are still to be conducted through the forthcoming transition period. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator estimates this in the hundreds. Moving from in the EU to independent life outside will not, therefore, be either quick or straightforward.
Recent years have seen much pain and anguish with the UK polarizing around ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ positions. Through the course of the Brexit debate, the good, the bad, and the ugly, have all been in evidence as deep-seated and long-running hurts in society surfaced. Sadly, we are not yet out of the woods. How we manage our differences in the coming years will determine, whether or not, we are able to build together a fairer and more just society for all.
For Christians this will be an opportunity to put faith into action and demonstrate a positive way to live with the sharp differences of opinion raised in the Brexit debate. Christian faith has much to say in this regard. Our Lord himself calls us to love not only our neighbours but also our enemies. Of course, Leavers and Remainers will not necessarily describe each other in such an extreme way, but there may well be a need to put down animosity and let go of mutual hurt suffered along the way. We are, after all, sisters and brothers in Christ.
To help us keep this call of Christ in mind, we might also find it helpful to make a temporary addition to the words of Paul from his letter to the Galatians (3.28):
‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, there is no longer leaver or remainer; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’
Paul was not ignoring the fact that very real differences exist between people. Clearly, they did then as they do now. Instead, what Paul sought to draw attention to, was how faith in Christ could – and should – be strong enough to remove any barriers of division which set people apart from, and against, each other.
So, the challenge for all of us who seek to live as followers of Jesus Christ in a post-Brexit UK - whether we voted to remain or to leave - is to collaborate on the task of helping build a better society.
More important than our political differences should be our unity in Christ. Then, together, we can work to ensure that the values of the kingdom of God such as compassion, mercy, and justice are reflected through every aspect of society; and those in power are called to account when those values are undermined.
The shape of our future is difficult to see, and the way ahead might not be easy. But let us look forward in faith and hope because, together, we can do this.
31 January 2020
Ian is a priest at Sheffield Cathedral and was Commissioned as a Church Army Evangelist in 1991. Until his retirement from full-time ministry in 2018, Ian served in his final post for 12 years as the Multifaith Chaplaincy Co-ordinator at Sheffield Hallam University. Ian is passionate about helping people to discover the relevance of the gospel for everyday life, and to experience for themselves God’s unconditional and unbounded love. You can find Ian on Twitter.
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