Far from being the best candidate or having a weak and flawed opponent, having a powerful campaign slogan appears to be the best way to win an election. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” speaks of strength and glory, Macron’s “On the Move” promises a better future and victory in future battles and May’s “Strong and Stable” gives reassurance against meddling outsiders. It does not matter that they have no real meaning or inherent value, but they play into something deeper in the human psyche.
After Israel had claimed the promised land under Moses and then Joshua’s leadership, they went through a phase of being lead by “judges”, people of integrity who had defended the people and listened to God. Finally, though, the people decided they wanted a king to be their judge, so they could be like other nations with their own king to rule them, lead them and fight their battles. They wanted someone who would bring stability and strength to the nation, someone to make them great and get them on the move against the Philistines who would not leave them alone.
They wanted all of this even at the cost of having to pay taxes, to send their children to fight in the King’s wars, to ultimately be working for the King and at the mercy of his whims and fancies. It did not matter about the policies, only the style; they were determined at all costs to get what they wanted. And God relented, giving the prophet Samuel a mandate to pick a king despite the fact they already had a king who would look after them, protect them, shepherd them.
Jesus has many titles, one of which is the Good Shepherd. A shepherd is an image that has changed over the course of time. Back when these words were spoken to be a shepherd was to be guardian of a flock. You had to protect them against the wild beasts at night, lead them to life giving pastures in the day, know each member of the flock personally so they would know your voice and respond to you as well as searching for the lost members. It was a role for a strong leader, someone who could be looked up to if they did it properly, if they were a Good Shepherd.
However if Jesus was running for election, I do not think it would be these strengths he would play on, but He would choose a different tone. His tag line may have been “To The Least of Us”. The Old Testament laws are filled with instructions on many things, but ultimately they are a way for a society to survive. Yet the prophets continually have to remind the community that they are not following the laws; the orphan, widow and foreigner are neglected, the poor are down trodden, their hearts are hardened. Jesus repeats these messages in a passage about separating the sheep from the goats; the hungry are not fed, the thirsty are not given drink, the stranger is not welcomed, the poor are not clothed, the sick are not looked after, the prisoner is not visited.
These simple admonitions are questioned by those whom they are spoken against; when did we do this? Jesus replies when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me. This is a message for our leaders at this time which is as poignant now as it was then. However you will not find it in any manifesto. It is too small, too easy to neglect. A few people’s hard luck stories are pushed aside for the accommodation of business’s needs. When JP Morgan’s assets are almost as much as the whole of UK’s economy, it is easy to see where the power lies.
These issues go beyond party affiliations and where you are on the economic spectrum; they are basic human needs. I hope all our parties take these small responsibilities seriously and listen to those they wish to represent. Our government needs to be a Good Shepherd for our country.