Everyone agrees that this General Election was a little different. Perhaps it’s the SG50 factor, the first election without LKY, the first time without a single walkover, interesting personalities from the opposition parties, etc. Whatever the reason, there certainly was more excitement (and haze) in the air. I actually stayed up for as long as I could tahan (endure) before finally deciding at 2am that I would not wait for the Aljunied GRC recount. This is quite an achievement for one who is not particularly interested in politics.
Now that GE2015 is over, as the dust settles, I thought it’d be good to share some personal thoughts about the process and the psychology behind it. Interestingly, I noted some parallels that would prove helpful to myself as a minister, not in Cabinet, but of Jesus Christ and His Church.
1. Numbers are not everything. However impressive, numbers remain largely deceptive. The opposition parties drew large crowds at their rallies. Many clamoured for Dr Chee Soon Juan’s autograph. Social media was abuzz with seemingly similar views and as many LIKES and SHARES. And yet, when the results were announced, these encouraging numbers amounted to little, if anything at all. Churches and ministries are quite the same, aren’t we? When we report, it’s numbers we present – and the larger, the better. We judge a church’s health by how big it is, and an activity’s success by how well attended it was. This lesson reminds us that numbers are not everything. There can be a lot of hype but very little support. Sadly, the herd mentality has prevailed through the centuries. Look at the multitudes that Jesus preached to. Where were they when it mattered? Jesus was not impressed with nor swayed by numbers, and we shouldn’t be either.
2. Numbers are important. Well, at least for the PAP. The 69.86% result was a “national swing”, a “landslide victory”, a “strong mandate”. To the ruling party, this signalled not just a clear and decisive win but also the support of the people. Although numbers are not everything, certain numbers are important. For the Christian community, we have to look beyond the crowds, registrations and attendances. What we should be really interested in is how many truly love and serve the Lord, translating attendance into action. No point reporting a large number of real-time decisions but finally only a small percentage of real-life disciples. The numbers of true significance may not always be impressive but these are what we must focus on.
3. Complaints don’t necessarily mean a desire for change. I think complaints are here to stay, no matter how wonderful a government is. Even the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew acknowledged the Singaporean as a complainer and grumbler. And the opposition parties found out the hard way when they were snooked into thinking complaints will turn into votes in their favour. Simply, complaints do not necessarily mean a desire for change. I call this the uncomfortable comfort zone. And sadly, this applies to Christians too. I’ve heard enough complaints about churches, pastors and leaders. But when push comes to shove, no one is prepared to do anything – too many years, too many friends, too much investment through tithes and offerings, too much to lose, too much inconvenience, too much trouble, too lazy, etc. Most are discontented with the situation but everyone seems totally content with the status quo. I know this sounds totally irrational but that’s just the way it is. So, by all means, pay attention to the ground but don’t be naive to expect that these would necessarily be there for or with you.
4. We are not desperate enough. Is this not true? Nothing is really at stake. Singapore is doing ok and our lives are rather comfortable. So, let’s make some noise but not too much. Let’s not risk anything. Don’t rock the boat. With affluence and freedom, Christians in Singapore can fall into the same trap. Since we get to worship freely and comfortably in air-conditioned auditoriums, let’s just be satisfied with that. After all, is that not an indication of God’s favour and blessing? But look at what’s happening in America now. That freedom is slowly but surely being taken away. It’s not enough just to complain about poor leadership or questionable doctrines. Believers are forced to take a stand, to put their faith where their mouth is. I am not saying that I desire that eventuality, ever. Armchair politicians are aplenty as are armchair church members. And it definitely takes a certain level of desperation to get these off their religious butts.
5. Be careful what you say about mothers and women. Look what happened to NSP’s Cheo Chai Chen after his poorly considered remark about PAP’s Tin Pei Ling? Enough said.
6. It’s hard to discern who is telling the truth. Many of the candidates spoke well, eloquently and rather convincingly. Of course, some should not even be there in the first place. Everyone had a case for action or for change. But who is presenting the whole truth, really? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? We have our fair share of that in Christian circles. Today, we have so much information and a choice of the best speakers. But is what we are listening to accurate and in accordance with the Scriptures? Or are we merely hearing what we want hear? Just as statistics and data can be presented by politicians to convey the party’s agenda, we must be aware that in these days, the same is being done with and to the Word of God. It all sounds attractive and good but we must discern if it is truly God’s kingdom’s agenda or not.
7. We decided but God presided. Without doubt, every vote, Christian or non-Christian, mattered. Singaporeans decided who they wanted in their constituencies and in Parliament. The future of the nation rested in our hands, or so it may seem. The truth is, whatever the result, God is not surprised and remains totally in control. In the end, His purpose will stand. Such is the tension between the freewill of Man and the sovereignty of God. We think we have the power to direct and to will, as if everything depended on us. As moral agents, God allows us the freedom to decide; and that carries with it responsibility and accountability. Ultimately, through our decisions and actions, and in spite of, God appoints the authorities. We think we are serving our own purposes and that of our nation, but somehow, these all end up serving the purposes of God! My little finite mind still cannot quite figure out how it all works but it does. It would do us well if we remember and apply this in our lives and ministries. We would rest and trust more. He is God and we are not.
These are just my personal observations. All said, I am thankful and blessed to be a Singaporean. May we never forget the grace of God that has brought us to where we are today.