With the loss of yet another christian statesman in the person of Chuck Colson and a generation that is leaving us it begs the question as to who will carry that role in the future. When Billy Graham goes to be with Jesus the most visible statesman of our generation will be gone and in many ways his voice has been fading already.
Because many of us can play that role in our small corner of the world I have been reflecting on what the characteristics of a Christian statesman or stateswoman would look like. Here my thoughts.
They are deeply grounded in Jesus and in a thoroughly Christian worldview. These are people who think deeply about the issues of society and how those issues intersect with the values and priorities of God. Issues like justice, fairness, the ability to speak in the public square, bringing our deepest values into the marketplace and congruity between what we espouse and how we live. Chuck Colson, John Stott, Francis Schaeffer, Mother Theresa and Timothy Keller are examples of those who have bridged the sacred/secular divide through a Christian worldview. Each brought or bring spiritual wisdom to bear on the challenges of our society.
They are publicly non-partisan individuals who build bridges instead of walls. One of the great barriers to Christian statesmanship today is the divisiveness of our political system. I honor each individual of faith who works in that difficult environment but by its very nature it is partisan and dividing rather than bridge building and uniting (with few exceptions).
Jesus is not the God of the Green Party, the Libertarians, the Republicans or the Democrats. He is the Lord of all and His truth supersedes all partisan squabbles. Thus it is a huge mistake for those who would speak for God on any issue to become spokespersons at the same time for any political party. We do speak to issues that are close to God's heart. We do not marry our position with a party because God is not the God of any political party. In western democracies, no party has a corner on the truth and all have a corner on some truth.
All of us have political views but Christian statesmen and women speak to the issues that transcend any party. They speak from a position of truth, not politics and from a deeply held Christian world view. In doing so they can build bridges across political parties and do what politics can only rarely do - bring people together rather than divide.
They are deeply humble individuals who are not looking for personal fame or recognition. Here is an irony. While power, fame and position are the coinage of our world, people are drawn to the truly humble who are not trading on any of those but only on deeply held belief and truth. What else did Mother Theresa have? Certainly no power or position and her fame (what she did not ask for) was a direct result of her humble service. Mother Theresa could speak truth in places of power where it made people deeply uncomfortable because of the power of her very life.
The minute that humility gives way to pride, the Christian statesman or woman have lost their ability to speak with clarity on any subject and indeed the desire to fan the flame of adulation will cause them to modify their message because truth is rarely popular in the long run.
They are diplomatic and loving even in their truth telling. One of the reasons that Christian states-people build bridges is that they are kind, compassionate, humble and kind with people - especially those who disagree with them. What soul was more kind and gentle than John Stott? Who could not like his self effacing personality, easy smile and kind actions? Why was it that Chuck Colson, one of the most partisan individuals prior to his faith could build bridges that transcended politics? Even when Mother Theresa was at her feistiest who could get in her face?
When prophets get angry they lose their audience, with good reason. Christian states-people reflect the character, attitudes and relationships of Christ.
I don't know who the next Christian states-people will be, at least the prominent ones. I do know that all of us can live out these qualities in our corner of the world, with the people we know and perhaps hundreds of thousands of smaller Christian states-people is more powerful than an well known handful.