Compassion Politics

Dear friends,

For a while there seemed some hope that the situation in NSW generally and Sydney specifically might ease within a few weeks. I feel a strong tendency toward disappointment and despair that it is still ongoing. And so, I pick up my “pen” to write the pastoral notes again, praying that they will offer hope and encouragement to others as well.

Rarely in my ministry have I offered reflection on politics — something which I occasionally regret. Whilst there are a few reasons for this, the most honest one is that I am scared I’ll get it wrong, that I don’t understand enough, and will make a fool of myself. With that said, as you might probably guess I’m about to launch into a (brief) reflection on politics. Or rather, about behaviours I have seen in politics recently.

My particular focus is on what I have observed in Australia, particularly in the last few months. And the key thing that has caused me grief and often great frustration has been seeing political leaders across the country having swipes at each other, casting blame, and being critical of another leader seemingly to show how well they, themselves, have managed the constantly changing situation. I have been deeply saddened as Premiers speak across the country accusing other Premiers and Health Ministers and Health Officers of acting too late, going too hard or too soft, not protecting people well enough, and so on. The underlying assumption is “I would do better. In fact, I am doing better!”

I have wondered how different things might have been, and might be into the future, if instead of what appears to be political point-scoring, our political leaders offered support and encouragement? Instead of using press conferences and media releases to criticise another leader, what if they offered their suggestions (even criticisms) in private, and offered assistance in public? What might change if all our political leaders chose to work together to address the constantly changing crisis in which we find ourselves?

It didn’t take long for my reflections to turn toward leadership in the Church. I started to think about times I have seen Church leaders point the finger at each other, undermine the ministry of another leader, and blame others for whatever is “going wrong” in the Church. This behaviour grieves me more than what I have seen in political leaders. I hold higher standards and expectations for those in the Church. After all, are we not striving to be like Christ?

I also started thinking of times and places I have seen a different kind of behaviour: where ministry leaders have reached out to help one another, seeking to build each other up and offer support and encouragement. It is the kind of leadership which knows that “we are in this together,” and by building another up it actually strengthens our own ministry. I am not weakened by encouraging you, I am not disempowered by supporting you, I am not less when I seek to help you be all you can be. In fact, it is the opposite: the more I encourage you, support you, help you, the greater my impact as a ministry leader will be as I seek to follow the leadership model set by Jesus.

We are all living with some level of fear and anxiety. But I really can’t help wondering how strong the Church (the Body of Christ) will be as we offer support not competition and seek to build each other up with encouragement and love and grace. And who knows? Maybe we can set the example for our political leaders when they see the impact we have on one another and those whom we are called to serve?

As you continue to follow your call to serve Christ, and as you continue to discern what that service looks like in the midst of a pandemic that has brought restrictions and lockdowns and distancing, I continue to pray for you. If you would like prayer for something specific in your leadership and ministry, I invite you to send me an email and I commit to praying for your particular request. (Email: [email protected]

You are held in love, respect, hope and grace.

Blessings and peace,