When you stand your ground, alone.
Often our most powerful weapon – especially when we are taking on the strongholds of this world – is our weakness. We may face a heavily armed enemy with just five smooth stones. No problem for the disciple of Jesus. I was taken aback at today’s headline in the Daily Mail As preening Tory saboteurs undermine their PM, their party, Brexit – and Britain’s future – the Mail asks simply HAVE THEY LOST THE PLOT? And at the centre of the front page there is a comment box which begins: “Contrast the calmness and composure of Mrs May with the shrill baying of the peacocking saboteurs. . . . ” To my complete surprise this tabloid, which - to quote from “Evita” - is slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, has come out so forcefully for Mrs May. I would have expected the very opposite given the Mail’s track record in its “shrill baying” over the years for Brexit. Similarly the other papers lead on this tumultuous day in British politics with Mrs May’s lonely stand against the wide front of forces ranged against her. The Daily Express used Churchillian language: Defiant May: I’ll fight to the end. Most people, I think, can see that Mrs May has been given an impossible job, negotiating with the 26 countries of the EU to devise a settlement which restores our national sovereignty without unduly damaging our political and trading relationships with these key partners, especially with Ireland. This is Mission Impossible meets Yes, Prime Minister. Few politicians could have withstood the pressure Mrs May faced yesterday in the House of Commons. It was almost an hour before any Tory MP spoke in support of the agreement. Meanwhile outside the chamber, to the disgust of the Daily Mail, the plotters plotted. As far as I can see no-one doubts the motives of our Prime Minister. For her the Brexit deal is the best that can be achieved for our nation. To resign, to step aside, for her would be a dereliction of duty. The Daily Telegraph quotes her for its main headline somewhat begrudgingly: “Am I going to see this through? Yes, I am.” For as Brits, we admire grit, we value backbone. Mrs May, as an astute politician, knows this. Our instinct is rally to the support of someone who has their back to the wall, holding their own. This was my experience as vicar of Christ Church some twelve years ago when our plans to build a parish centre were rejected by the planning authorities. We had come to a dead-end, probably spending £20k to no avail. Politically I was vulnerable. But then over the Christmas weekend the Champion, our local free newspaper, in a major article lambasted me personally for this failure. An unholy row has erupted following claims that a local vicar has divided his parish. According to Aughton Parish - Council, attendance numbers at Christ Church on Liverpool Road is at an all-time low and the blame rests with their vicar, Reverend Ross Moughtin. Every fact in this salacious article was wrong and two weeks later, buried on page 6, the newspaper apologised. I’m sure there were members of the congregation who did hold me responsible for the failed project. However, no one likes to see their vicar attacked in such a vindictive and personal way. Everyone rallied to my support. And four years later the new Ministry Centre was opened as a wonderful resource for the Kingdom. I’m sure Mrs May’s Christian background undergirds her determination, her sense of duty. For at the very heart of the Christian faith is God not just working despite human weakness but through human weakness. Our frailty is part and parcel of his plan. How often are doors opened, opportunities seized, as a direct consequence of our failures, even our disgrace. This is how God works. We see this above all at the cross of Jesus, demeaned and disgraced, hung out to dry. As Isaiah prophesied centuries before: “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.” (Isaiah 53:3f) So we refuse to be intimidated by Goliath and his ilk. And more, we do not fear failure, we do not dread disgrace. For this is the path Jesus freely chose to tread for us so that we may walk with God. It’s part and parcel of following our resurrected and victorious Lord. So we pray for Mrs May and our leaders, facing not just an impossible situation but even abuse and personal attack. We pray for wisdom and right judgment, of course but also for courage and protection. It can’t be easy.