Elections and the Kingdom of God (4)


In 2 weeks time we have the democratic right to vote for those who lead us in this country for the next 3 years.  Don’t miss out on your right – a right that was not always available for every person, not women, not Maori, not commoners like ourselves.  Do not let this opportunity slide by.


Over the past month I have been taking Jesus’ statements made at the start of his ministry, so that we can lay what Jesus says against the policies and promises of the political parties vying for power.


We have already looked at “Good news to the poor”; and “release to the captives;” and “opening the eyes of the blind”


Remember I am not telling you which party to vote for. That is your right and your right alone, but I want us to think about the policies of the people we are voting for.


Luke 4:18

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


The fourth Kingdom statement is about the oppressed.


Isaiah, speaking of the Messiah said 42 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.


Normally when we think of oppressed, we think of those in slavery, or indentured labourers, or victims of domestic violence or persecuted Christians in totalitarian regimes but there is an oppression which is here and not over there. There is an internal oppression in this nation that needs to be addressed. Oppression from within our thoughts.


I am talking about the suicide epidemic in this country. People who choose to end their own lives because they cannot see a way out of their circumstances.


I really cannot do justice to the topic in a short sermon, but I want to offer a starter to the discussion.

The Ministry of Social Development in their report of 2016 shows that New Zealand’s mortality rate through suicide was 13th highest in the world for males and 5th highest for females.

In 2014, the rate of suicide among Māori was higher than among non-Māori for both males and females. Among Māori males the suicide rate was 1.4 times that of non-Māori.  For Māori females, the suicide rate was 1.5 times that of non-Māori females).[1]

And for Maori youth it is even more horrific. The suicide mortality rate for Maori youth is 48 per 100K compared with 17 per 100K for non Maori

New Zealand’s youth (15–24 years) suicide rate is shockingly the highest among the 34 OECD countries. [2] Suicide is the second highest way young people die in New Zealand

Michael King  (suicide prevention spokesman) said:

"Our approach to suicide prevention could be greatly improved if we spent more time educating ordinary New Zealanders on their attitudes. Their judgmental and off-the-cuff remarks in regards to attention-seeking and cowardly behaviour – these common cliches that are thrown around – the impact is that there are 569 New Zealanders who would rather die and leave their families behind, than openly talk about their problems and be judged by other people."

One of the 9 key factors identified that impinge on the risk of youth suicide is low self-esteem, hopelessness and loneliness.[3]

That is sense of hopelessness is echoed by Michael King: "It’s not the suicidal thoughts or depression that is killing New Zealanders it is going through that alone and seeing no hope.

Those that are contemplating suicide are the bruised reeds that the Messiah came for

Many people commit suicide because there is nobody waiting for them tomorrow. There is no reason to live if there is nobody to live for.[4]


If we had time, we could talk of the 5 ways to wellbeing identified by the Mental Health organisation in NZ – they are in your newsletter.


I want to expand on just one of those: Connect Me Whakawhanaunga


I want to talk about 3 ideas in this category: community, relationship and connectedness.[5]


These 3 things – community, relationship and connectedness – are things that church should stand for, because that is what God is and what God values.


The world seeks these 3 things in the wrong arena.


1 Timothy 6:17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.


Riches does not give us community, rather it gives us the opposite.

Riches do not give us relationship – ask the prodigal son: where did his friends go to when he ran out of money.

Riches do not give us connectedness: Howard Hughes, one of the richest men in the world, died alone.


Last month’s report from the Chief Science Advisor of the Prime Minister’s Office identified that “where there is a low community sense of self-esteem or self-worth, this will impact on the individual; ad may become a major influence [on suicide] especially if peers and family also share such values.”[6]


Community, relationship and connectedness are found in the hope that we Christians have – the hope of Christ who created us to be his bride.


2 Corinthians 1:10 He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again,


We have hope in the God who strengthens us; we have hope in an eternal future; we have hope in a God who walks with us in this world in the pain and the darkness.


2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.


The hope we have is not a forlorn hope. It is a hope written down in Scripture:


Romans 15:4   everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

The scriptures are written to give us hope.  When people have lost hope, we can remind them and ourselves of God’s promises that are found in scripture. [7]

Henri Nouwen reminds us that “the meditation on God’s Word is indispensable if we want to be reminders of God and not of ourselves, if we want to radiate hope and not despair, joy and not sadness, life and not death.”[8]

We have one thing to give to the world – that is hope. We are dealers in hope.

God knows that we will face trials and issues in our lives and rather than abandon us to struggle (and in the case of those who take their own lives – give up on their lives), the Bible tells us to hang in there.


Romans 5:2 we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.


Suffering is a given. When we hang in there, that produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope, a hope that does not disappoint.


Philip Yancey reminds us in his book Where is God when it hurts that hope, faith, and a purpose in life is medicinal [9]


They are the counter to the loss of connectedness, relationship and community. Our hope we have in Christ, because God is love.




There is a community in France called the l’Arche community where people work with such severely disabled persons that most helpers burn out in 18 months.  What they do is love people.


Jean Vanier who founded the community wrote: Wounded people who have been broken by suffering and sickness ask for only one thing: a heart that loves and commits itself to them, a heart full of hope for them.[10]


What a suffering person needs is love, not knowledge and wisdom.[11]


I want to argue that that love is what people who have found themselves in a situation where they want to end their lives need too.


I want to take this from the theoretical to the practical.


A teenager of our acquaintance who has been involved with this church off and on for many years came in recently and told us that she had taken an overdose. Rather than going out into the park to die, she came to her youth leader and me, and we were able to call the ambulance before she went unconscious.


The sense of community, relationship and connectedness that she had from us saved her life.


It is stories like those that show that the hope we have in Christ is what is needed to stem the tide of suicides in this country.


That is not to say that counselling, medication, other interventions are not also required (because they clearly are necessary), but this is a part that non-professionals like ourselves can play to help stem this epidemic.


E E Cummings wrote: “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is something valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch”.[12]


Our job as Christians is to reveal that ‘someone’ to those who have no hope, no purpose, no friends, or overwhelming thoughts of self-destruction.


Back to the elections, all parties recognise that this is a huge problem in this country, but talk is cheap. What policies are the parties promising to change this culture in this country?


Read widely and be part of the solution.





[1] http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/suicide-facts-2014-data

[2] http://socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/suicide.html

[3] Peter Gluckman Youth Suicide in NZ: a discussion paper 2017

[4] Henri Nouwen The Wounded Healer 67

[5] Stephanie de Fresne “Community and Connectedness” Tui Motu Interislands September 2012, 10


[6] Gluckman

[7] Jay Adams The Christian Counsellors Manual 46

[8] Henri Nouwen Making All things new and other classics 272

[9] Philip Yancey Where Is God When It Hurts 208

[10] Yancey 168

[11] Ibid

[12] Val Roberts “Coming Back Home” in Refresh Journal of Contemplative Spirituality Vol 17 #2 Summer 2017 13