Righteousness Makes a Nation Great

Leaders carry heavy responsibilities. The decisions they make affect the lives of many people and have consequences for the present and for the future. A man called Caiaphas was high priest at the time Jesus was condemned to death. He and his fellow leaders were opposed to Jesus because he challenged their teaching and way of life. The growing popularity of Jesus was undermining their position and power base. They were afraid that the Romans, who occupied Israel at that time, might intervene and take control of the nation. So they decided that Jesus must die. Caiaphas summed it up when he said, “You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He was wrong. The consequences for the nation of their decision were catastrophic. Within 40 years the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem.

Leaders are not always in touch with reality. The big issues in their world are not always the big issues for ordinary people. Like Caiaphas, they can be very concerned about their own position and power. The temptation to act on the basis of what is expedient, rather than what is right, can be very strong. It is also easy to make an example of someone else rather than examine ourselves and our own actions. Caiaphas’s preoccupation with his own position, and desire to justify his own actions, made him deaf to the challenge of Jesus’ teaching.

Our nation is being rocked by a series of moral scandals. Our leaders are keen to show decisive leadership and to call to account those who have done wrong. They are also aware of the need to maintain their own position and interests. The key issue is not expediency, which identifies and deals with a few scapegoats and then assumes that all will be well.

These events raise more fundamental issues for us and our leaders. What is the moral basis of our society? Successive governments have deliberately rejected the Judaeo-Christian legal and moral foundation of our nation for the shaky relative standards of secularism. There is no place for God and his absolute truth in Britain today. We are seeing the early consequences of this being worked out at all levels in our society. Psalm 14 is a challenge to us all, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no-one who does good.”

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