The Spirit of Contention

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Earlier this week, West Australians were stunned at the sudden resignation of the WA Premier. After nearly 30 years in public life, serving as the WA Leader of his political party for more than 11 years and Premier of WA for more than 6 years, it was a shock announcement. It is not my intent to comment on politics, but there are lessons from this incident that Christians should take note of. 

None are spared. Possibly the most popular Premier in WA ever, he was described by the Prime Minister as “a great Premier of his proud state” who “always held to his convictions and always sought to do the right thing by his state”. Being at the helm during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic when medical science had not yet caught up with the virus (which it still hasn’t till now), he made many hard decisions which he felt were best for WA despite being mocked, physically threatened, called names, and even being sued. His high levels of popularity secured his party a landslide victory with huge majorities in both houses of parliament. As a political leader, he left WA with a much stronger economy and returned the state to a budget surplus. Riding on perhaps the highest popularity ever experienced by a WA Premier, what made him resign?  In his own words, he explains that it’s because “I’m tired, extremely tired. In fact, I’m exhausted.” The “huge responsibility . . . is all consuming, each and every day”. Explaining further, he revealed “I will tell you something, I am not naturally a combative person. I don’t think I’m naturally a combative person, I am not naturally confrontational. But every day, I have to engage in argument and debate and confrontation in one way or another and I am kind of tired of it. That is political life . . . And so, I am tired of that endless confrontation and endless being frustrated about things and issues.”

The counterproductive environment out there. Despite his popularity and what seemed like a genuine desire to do what he felt was best for the state, the environment was one of confrontation. Those opposing would bring up issues for the sake of “conflict and confrontation and criticism”. Such an environment is counterproductive for all. This is different from a continuous improvement mindset – one that seeks to do better for the sake of betterment and good, such as in businesses that are always looking for ways to improve the quality of their products for their customers. It is also not saying that one cannot ask questions nor seek improvement when things are improper. We should always have the mindset of “all things be[ing] done decently and in order” (1Cor 14:40). Those in power should be people who “beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom 13:4). When they do so, we are commanded to “render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Rom 13:7). But instead of honour, there can be pockets who have been conditioned to seek out conflicts in a hawkish manner, looking for every opportunity to oppose.  Sometimes, such oppositions may be under the guise of “legitimate” causes, but yet could be to fulfill their own aims and objectives rather than genuinely out of desire for the good of the people.  The opposition, based on a perfect 20/20 vision hindsight, will happily criticise which decisions were imperfect, or poke holes even in what was done well, inferring that they would have done better. Then there is of course the media that may be more readership biased. Criticism makes news. It may not be surprising that the more emotionalism is stirred up, the higher the readership. As the outgoing Premier pointed out, this is politics. But it is also the sinful fallen mindset that every man has. Every man for himself, never mind if I stab or step on another to make myself shine. This is part of the world system that we as Christians must be very cognisant of and not follow. Such a questioning and confrontational mindset may be part of the education system (though not that all questions are wrong, as I have stated above) where challenging and questioning are propounded to be what is good and desirable for one’s development. 

The Christian response. We cannot change the world, neither are we called to do so. But we must realise that “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God” (1Cor 2:12) and so must not think or act, consciously or unconsciously, like the world. As a believer, resisting outrightly evil things may be quite obvious and consciously observed. But when it comes to our mindset, it may not strike us that our thinking must be “not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). In fact, our minds must be where it starts since our minds determine our attitudes. As mentioned earlier, asking questions aren’t always wrong, but the motive behind the questions must be questioned. When you question something, could it be that you really want to further your selfish motives and objectives for your own purposes?  If so, let us instead exercise charity which “doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own” (1Cor 13:5). Before you entertain that question in your mind, reflect if you are doing so just to show that you are better than another? If so, then let us not be like Satan the diabolos but instead “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Php 2:3). Or could it simply be that you just love a fight or even to watch a fight? If so, God warns that “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife” (Pr 30:33). In using parallelism to bring across the relentless ways of troublemakers, God tells us that Christians must avoid being people that provoke contention and strife. We all must beware of creating a confrontational and argumentative environment in the home, our workplaces, and the church.

All these examples are the natural tendency of the fallen nature and it is ultimately to satisfy our own pride, ends, and purposes. Politics is part of this world, but politicking should never be part of a Christian’s character and most certainly must never be part of the church. It can wear even a tenacious person down and ultimately benefits nobody at all. We should question unrighteousness and when things are done unconstitutionally, but let us always examine our underlying motives. It is the worse attitude when we just love to create opposition and confrontation just for the sake of it. Such people will say “We should go left” when someone says “Go right” and vice versa, because opposing is just a mentality and attitude they thrive on. The believer must never imbibe such a spirit but quickly repent if we have such a spirit.

Pr 22:10   Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.

Yours in our Lord’s service,