WITH the Conservatives heading for electoral annihilation and the prospect of a Labour, Scottish Nationalist and Lib-Dem coalition ruling Britain for a long time, it is understandable that readers might be inclined to echo the catchphrase of the Dad’s Army undertaker Private Frazer: ‘We’re doo-oomed!’
Armed with legislation to restrict socially conservative opinion, a New Left government could succeed in closing a site like this down or making it impossible for it to operate. Is it so fanciful to suggest that under a neo-Marxist electoral dictatorship sustained by proportional representation, GB News presenters such as Mark Steyn could find themselves broadcasting from a boat in the mid-Atlantic with UK viewers having their devices seized by the woke police in dawn raids?
The political future looks bleak. But a vital Christian corrective to the Private Frazer mentality is the Book of Common Prayer’s (BCP) Collect for today, the 18th Sunday after Trinity:
‘Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’
This prayer is not blithely optimistic. It recognises that throughout their earthly pilgrimage, Christians face the pull of evil from human society in wilful rebellion against God (the world), from their own inner sinful nature (the flesh), and from their spiritual adversary whom the Bible calls the devil or Satan.
In that spirit of realism, this Collect invites Christian believers to call upon the Lord God Almighty for grace to withstand these pressures.
The grace of God is his unmerited generosity towards sinful humanity. The prologue to the New Testament Gospel of John beautifully describes the grace of God coming into the world in the person of his eternal Son, Jesus Christ. In his eye-witness account of Jesus’s teaching, miracles, death and resurrection in Roman-ruled Galilee, Samaria and Judea from around AD 27 to 30, the Apostle John wrote:
‘He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, but his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1v11-13 – King James Version). John testified: ‘And of his fulness have all we received, grace upon grace’ (John 1v16).
The Apostle Paul in his New Testament letter to Titus, one of his associates in the proclamation of the Christian message in the Roman Empire of the 1st century AD, described the grace of God in these terms:
‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2v11-13).
Paul’s description of the grace of God is significant here. Jesus did not appear personally to all people during his life on earth. He did not travel beyond what is now Israel, apart from a brief journey to Egypt when he was a baby. But the grace of God has indeed come to the nations of the world through the saving message of Christ’s death and resurrection. Authentic preachers of that message such as Paul and Titus had the God-given authority to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all who put their trust in Christ. This divine message of salvation was preserved for posterity in the New Testament.
The ‘blessed hope’ here refers to the future for Christian believers. According to Paul’s theology, which suffuses the BCP’s Collects, Christ’s bodily resurrection from his tomb just outside Jerusalem in around AD 30 is the guarantee of his second coming at the end of human history when he will finally remove evil from the world and lead his believing people to his everlasting kingdom of love, peace and truth. That is the ‘blessed hope’ for Christian believers which will be realised at the ‘glorious appearing’ of Jesus Christ in the future.
Without the grace of God, which this Collect so powerfully invokes, Private Frazer would be right. All of humanity would be doomed. But the grace of God has come to the world and so anyone can make this prayer their own through faith in Jesus Christ.