The great British statesman, Winston Churchill, is alleged to have said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

This caustic remark may rub modern sensibilities the wrong way, and in fact it’s doubtful that Churchill ever made it. But whatever the source, it contains a whiff of unpleasant truth.

For too many individuals, the voting process is like buying a car, based more on impulsive feelings than on informed consideration.

And so it was, at least to an extent, with the Brexit referendum, in which the British public voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union. In the aftermath, some voters expressed doubts about how they voted and why, and what it means for their country. Others claimed they’d vote differently, given a second chance.

But amidst confusion and unease over the future – among Brits as well as outsiders – there are a few things Christian observers might all agree on, whether we’re for Brexit, against it, or have no opinion.

1. God is sovereign

In the wake of an event like Brexit, with the potential to shake up the status quo in the UK and beyond, a measure of concern is a natural response. It’s also the best time for believers to remind themselves, and each other, that God is sovereign. This sovereignty extends over all of creation, not least world affairs.

Brexit and its outcomes aren’t happening outside of God’s watch or will. The Lord of the universe isn’t thinking, “Oh, what a relief that those Brits voted the way they did!” or “What on Earth have they done? This wasn’t part of the plan.”

According to Scripture, God controls the times and fortunes of all nations. When it comes to Brexit, He’s got this. In fact, He’s more than got it. He has permitted and ordained it to accomplish his good – if perhaps unfathomable – purposes in His world.

2. Political beliefs are not a test of Christian orthodoxy

At various times in its history, the church has reiterated the core truths of the faith – the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and so forth – in a series of catechisms and creeds. Not surprisingly, these creedal statements are silent about politics, economics and many other socio-cultural matters.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped some Christians from insisting that their own political stances should be normative for all believers. This attitude has been especially prevalent in certain segments of the North American church.

But at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, the fact that a person holds a particular view on, say, Brexit doesn’t mean that they don’t believe the Bible or that they’re not a true Christian. They may love and trust Jesus as well as the next believer. They simply have a different political opinion.

3. Political differences are a test of Christian character

Genuine believers can agree to disagree on any number of political matters. However, the way we handle such disagreements speaks volumes about our progress in developing Christlike character. Do we receive contrary opinions with humility and grace? Or do we dismiss them with thinly veiled contempt?

Christians don’t hold a monopoly on passionately held views. Issues such as Brexit can stir contentious feelings among people of all backgrounds.

But as always, the world is watching Christians, looking for a different response. These moments provide an opportunity to demonstrate such a response, one that reflects the attitude of Christ. It’s a chance to show the world the true meaning of tolerance for those with whom we disagree.

4. Be informed and pray with understanding

God places a high premium on thinking. His greatest command is that we love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind. The Apostle Paul enjoins us to pray with our spirit as well as our understanding.

With that in view, it’s vital for believers to be as well-informed as possible about potential world-shaping events. Brexit certainly qualifies; its ripples have been felt beyond the UK, in Europe and the rest of the global community.

Not everyone is politically inclined, but all Christians are called to seek the good of the city, and by extension, the world. We can do that by engaging with issues such as Brexit, examining the differing viewpoints with a fair and open mind. Then we’ll be able to pray, intelligently and compassionately, for those who are affected by it in Britain and elsewhere.

5. God is sovereign

The last item on this list is the same as the first. When confronted with the uncertainties of current events, we must begin and end with the sovereignty of God. Nothing else will make ultimate sense of these things, or offer a firm basis for lasting hope.

That’s not to say that God is obliged to explain what He’s doing in a given circumstance. More often than not, He works in mysterious ways. Nevertheless, He is always acting with perfect wisdom and goodness. As the Scriptures affirm, He does all things well.

As for Brexit, it brings to mind a situation with strange parallels from over 600 years ago. During the 14th century, England was engaged in the Hundred Years War with France. As a medieval nation, England also owed political and economic support to the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the continent. But during that time, the papacy had moved from Rome and was based at Avignon, in France.

This struck many English as an unacceptable conflict of interest. John Wycliffe, an Oxford scholar, began to question papal authority over England based on his reading of Scripture. Under the protection of English nobles eager to loosen ties with French religious authorities, Wycliffe was able to promote his ideas and to produce the first Bible translation in the English language. In doing so, he became a precursor – a so-called “morning star” – of the Protestant Reformation.

None of this is to suggest that today’s Brits were either right or wrong to vote for Brexit. But it is to suggest that God works through historical developments in ways we can’t begin to anticipate.

Everything that happens in creation – from the fall of a sparrow to the collision of galaxies to the outcome of a referendum – occurs within the express purposes of God. Those who know Him can rest in His care while they pray with confidence, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Subby Szterszky is the managing editor of Focus on Faith and Culture, an e-newsletter produced by Focus on the Family Canada.

© 2016 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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