What kind of society do Aussies want?

Bill Shorten proposed some significant changes, but Aussie voters didn’t buy it:

  • They didn’t want change, if change involved a cost (“grandiose policies”).
  • They didn’t want to lose on investments (franking credits, negative gearing).
  • They didn’t want the environment prioritized over jobs (Adani).

The biggest loser was Tony Abbott, and Christians must consider why. Four years ago, he was Prime Minister. Now he’s knocked out, with a massive 19% swing — greater than in any other seat, and when the national swing was towards his party. Why?

Tony had become a laughingstock on environmental issues, so Zali Steggall made climate change a major plank of her campaign. Tony was perceived as “out of date” on other issues too. His views on gender equality, same-sex marriage, and abortion reflected his Catholic heritage, and the church is seen by many as an institution that lacks authority for twenty-first century life. Even former colleagues labelled Tony as “clearly out of step.”

Australians don’t want costly change, but neither do they want to be stuck in the past. After the royal commission into sexual abuse, the traditional church is viewed as a relic of the past, something society is better off without.

A few vocal critics expressed concern that Scott Morrison might be a religious weirdo (Pentecostal), but that didn’t translate into votes. Scott had a 4% swing towards him. Aussies can tolerate religion, provided religion doesn’t tell them what they must do.

How should Christians respond? I’m not suggesting we just go with the political flow. Jesus won’t permit that: he has an agenda for changing society. The good news that Jesus is Lord leads us into a radically different world. And there are identifiable winners and losers in Jesus’ policies for how the world should function under his reign (Luke 6:20-26).

But unlike what the church has sometimes done, Jesus does not impose his values on the community. Instead, he calls his followers to embody those values. That’s how the community can see what it can become.

Listen to Jesus’ vision for how society can be healed. Take special note of who is responsible for enacting his reign in the present:

Luke 6:20–31 (NIV)
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

That’s the best political campaign I’ve heard all year. Jesus’ vision of a world set right (verses 20-26) depends on us listening and implementing his vision (verses 27-31). He’s called us to be the kingdom that enacts his reign. Are you in?

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview College Dean

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