By Margaret Thatcher
Perhaps it would be best if I began by speaking personally as a Christian, as well as a politician, about the way I see things.
Reading recently, I came across the starkly simple phrase: “Christianity is about spiritual redemption, not social reform.” Sometimes the debate on these matters has become too polarised and gives the impression that the two are quite separate. Most Christians would regard it as their personal Christian duty to help their fellow men and women. They would regard the lives of children as a precious trust. These duties some not from any secular legislation passed by Parliament, but from being a Christian.
But there are a number of people who are not Christians who would also accept those responsibilities. What then are the distinctive marks of Christianity? They stem not from the social but from the spiritual side of our lives. I would identify three beliefs in particular:
First, that from the beginning, man has been endowed by God with the fundamental right to choose between good and evil. Second, that we were made in Gods own image and therefore we are expected to use all our own power of thought and judgement in exercising that choice; and further, if we open our hearts to God, he has promised to work within us. And third, that Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when faced with his terrible choice and lonely vigil, chose to lay down his life that our sins may be forgiven. I remember very well a sermon on an Armistice Sunday when our preacher said: “No one took away the life of Jesus, he chose to lay it down.”
I think back to many discussions in my early life when we all agreed that if you try to take the fruits of Christianity without its roots, the fruits will wither. And they will not come again unless you nurture the roots. But we must not profess the Christian faith and go to Church simply because we want social reforms and benefits or a better standard of behaviour — but because we accept the sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ expressed so well in the hymn: “When I survey the wonderous Cross/On which the Prince of glory died/My richest gain I count but loss/And pour contempt on all my pride.”
May I also say a few words about my personal belief in the relevance of Christianity to public policy–to the things that are Caesar’s? The Old Testament lays down in Exodus the Ten Commandments as given to Moses, the injunction in Leviticus to love our neighbour as ourselves, and generally the importance of observing a strict code of law.
The New Testament is a record of the Incarnation, the teachings of Christ, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Again we have the emphasis on loving our neighbour as ourselves and to “Do-as-you-would-be-done-by.”
I believe that by taking together these key elements from the Old and New Testaments, we gain a view of the universe, a proper attitude to work and principles to shape economic and social life.
We are told we must work and use our talents to create wealth. “If a man will not work he shall not eat,” wrote St. Paul to the Thessalonians. Indeed, abundance rather than poverty has a legitimacy which derives from the very nature of Creation.
Nevertheless, the Tenth Commandment — Thou shalt not covet — recognises that making money and owning things could become selfish activities. But it is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but love of money for its own sake.
The spiritual dimension comes in deciding what one does with the wealth. How could we respond to the many calls for help, or invest for the future, or support the wonderful artists and craftsmen whose work also glorifies God, unless we had first worked hard and used our talents to create the necessary wealth? And remember the women with the alabaster jar of ointment.
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