brexit protest 5

Political Differences Are Ripping Us Apart. Here are 3 Ways to Intervene

Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union has taken the nation, and the world, by surprise. The ramifications are far-reaching and will be played out for years. Only time will tell whether Brexit is good for the country or Europe as a whole. But what is most alarming right now is the hostility the decision has brought into our communities. Similar forces are at work in the US, Australia and other countries facing elections too.

Brexit has triggered not only the severing of the United Kingdom from the EU, but possibly other nations from the EU, Scotland from the UK, and Northern Ireland is now in a tricky situation with its EU-Irish neighbour. At the community level, groups are now pitted against each other like never before:

  • Leave vs Remain: with angry outbursts leveled at those on opposing sides of the vote
  • Race vs Race: with an increase in hostility against migrants. As one headline puts it, it has become OK to be racist in Britain
  • Young vs Old: some are angry with an older generation for largely voting Leave, even their own parents
  • City vs Country: with the Leave vote highest in regional areas
  • Politician vs Constituent: the murder of MP Jo Cox last week was by a man demanding she ‘put Britain first’
  • Politician vs Politician: with both major political parties imploding in the aftermath

We need strong relationships to be resilient as both individuals and communities. In my book Resilient I show how Jesus’ famous speech, the Sermon on the Mount, addresses the four forces that destroy relationships and how to counteract them. Three of those forces are particularly at work in our nation now. Here is a brief description of each and a corresponding commitment we can make to curb their power. (Read the relationships section of the Sermon here)

Force: Anger

Trace the start of the row, the swing of the fist, the kick of the boot, or the stab of the knife to its root and you will find the seed of festered anger. While feelings of anger are a reaction to injustice and can be funnelled into positive change, there is a murderous form of anger which is destructive. The first sign of its presence is when we start belittling others with our words (Matthew 5:22b).

Jesus knows we’ll have disagreements. When they happen, he says, don’t let loose with the insults. Instead, go and reconcile. Whether the matter is between you and someone in church (5:23-24) or with a fellow member of the community (5:25-26), as it depends on you, reconcile.

Brexit: From foreigners being called ‘vermin’ to all Leavers being labelled ‘bigots’, this force is at work.

Commitment: We will not be driven by hate. We will not hurl hateful words. We will seek to reconcile.

Force: False Promises

'Refugees Welcome here' protest
Main image: Garon S Above: Ron F (both cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

Marriages, friendships, business relationships and communities are ruined each day by broken trust. Promises are made but forgotten. Loopholes are exploited in contracts. Jesus addresses this destructive force too. In Jesus’ day it was common to promise something by swearing an oath. But if you were clever with your wording, you could make yourself a legal loophole. If you swore by ‘the temple’ you didn’t have to keep your oath, but if you swore by the temple’s gold, you did (Matthew 23:16). Chose your words carefully and you could make promises you didn’t intend to keep.

Jesus will have none of it, saying oaths themselves are wrong as they make a regular Yes or No redundant (5:33-37). Instead, he says, be truthful. If you say you’ll do something, do it. That is your promise.

Brexit: As BBC’s Reality Check has shown, false promises have been made on both sides of this vote, with perhaps the Leave campaign being most guilty on funding and immigration claims and promises.

CommitmentWe will not perpetuate lies, but truth. We will treat those we disagree with fairly. 

Force: Retaliation

In his Sermon, Jesus also tackles the desire to get even. While Jewish law allowed for a degree of this when wronged, Jesus gives an alternative so radical it has shaken history ever since. Instead of striking back when slapped, turn the other cheek. Instead of resisting a Roman’s orders, go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42). In short, Jesus says, don’t get even, get creative. Instead of retaliating against your enemy, love them (5:43-45).

Brexit: The moment is ripe for long-held hostilities to be reawakened, whether in the family or community.

Commitment: We will not ‘make them pay for what they’ve done’. We will keep our convictions where necessary, but treat those we disagree with respectfully.

Picture: Jean Baptist Paris (cc by-sa 2.0)

Jesus’ teaching on relationships is demanding. None of these commitments is easy, and none of them sidestep the hard work of making the right (possibly unpopular) decisions needed to lead our nation and communities forward. But national resilience isn’t built on anger, false promises or retaliation, but on reconciliation, truth and love. And our communities could do with those qualities right now.

Want More?

This podcast explores all four forces that destroy relationships in more depth.

Please Share


  • June 29, 2016

    Thank you Sheridan, this is exactly what is needed now. I think many people, myself included, have been surprised by the strength of emotion that these recent events have stirred, both personally and in the nation as a whole. It’s easy to feel helpless and fearful about what happens next and the temptation to seek to blame others is strong. But even if the events are beyond our control, each one of us is responsible for how we choose to respond and behave now – this is what we can control. I’ve also felt the temptation to get drawn into the social-media fuelled hysteria and ranting…perhaps this is a good time for me to have a social media fast and read the sermon on the mount instead!

    • June 29, 2016

      Reading the Sermon on the Mount instead of Facebook will definitely help! Like you, I have felt very strong emotions over this. There *are* some very important issues that needed adressing head-on – the lies and false promises etc – but we must commit to never demonising those we disagree with.

  • June 29, 2016
    Lawrence Nabare

    Thanks for this unique dimension of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. I love it and am motivated to read your ebook on resilience for more edification. But tell me, does this not call for a posture of meekness, which is being denounced everywhere as weakness? We are told humility does not equate with meekness. I honestly want to know. Thanks.

    • June 29, 2016

      Thanks Lawrence. It depends what we understand Jesus meaning about ‘the meek’ in the Sermon. He was most likely speaking to people who were already meek, lowly, and humble in the eyes of society (the people mentioned coming to him at the end of Matthew 4) and telling them while the world rejected them (as both the Roman Empire and the religious elite did), his kingdom was open to them (more on this in my Resilient book). What he’s not saying is that we should be quiet, cower, let whatever is to happen take its course.

      We are the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13-16). We are agents of change. We definitely do that with the utmost humility, but also boldly.

  • June 29, 2016
    Jan Erlam

    I have tried so hard to be kind and patient. I have spoken the truth with love relating only to the truth of my own experiences. People have been so vile, in my face trying to force me to change my thinking. I care about my country and people. I am angered at what society is doing, there is no room for racism here. Our country needs to be rebuilt, I think of liberty holding a torch for the vulnerable and I want my country to embrace those who are poor and weary. The poor have just had enough, the division goes beyond Brexit. In the last two years my life had disintegrated, I am in such a bad position I can see how easily I could become homeless. It hit me like a slap in the face, Many years ago my son died, he lost his life as a result of something environmental killing his bone marrow, what followed was lies, spin, cover ups and nobody cared, 16 years later came the Organ retention, again lies, spin, cover ups, nothing changed today its worse, What we need is a good strong, compassionate leader, followed by MP’s the calibre of Jo Cox. We need discipline in society where people are respected and compromise is always an avenue. I raised money for many years for Bone Marrow related disorders, the rich would turn away, the poor, gave their last penny. I have first hand experience of what made me vote the way I did. An NHS so stretched and in so much apathy they missed bladder cancer she died within 6 weeks. The lies are the thing that bother me, nobody listening, everybody shouting, vileness I am ashamed of my Country and I don’t want to be. Jack is no better than Jill in this so I am actively seeking routes of love, peace and honesty.

    • June 29, 2016

      Oh Jan, I am so sorry for everything you’ve been through. Praying for you today, and praying your deepest strength will be found in prayer too, as you live that life of ‘love, peace and honesty’ while being a voice for justice in your community.


Post a Comment: