Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Final Accounting

Pomp and circumstance is what Britain does really well. Meticulous in its execution, the ceremonial funeral of Baroness Thatcher was the first since 1965 to mark the passing of a former Prime Minister. The service at St Paul’s Cathedral was attended by the Queen, the British establishment and dignitaries from around the world.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in small pockets throughout the country, the former Prime Minister’s detractors held Thatcher death parties to celebrate her passing. Even, in death it would seem, Margaret Thatcher brought to the surface the many underlying tensions which remain in British society.

There is no denying that Mrs Thatcher has left her mark. Her election in 1979 is now seen as a turning point in history. Her government broke the cosy post war political consensus on the interventionist role of the state in favour of individual responsibility. That political approach became known as ‘Thatcherism’, and while many suffered through unemployment as the state was reigned in, many other ordinary people benefitted becoming property owners for the first time.   

Margaret Thatcher had a strong Christian faith. She was brought up as a Methodist, attending church three times a week. While Prime minister, she attended church at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where she worshipped, not with the ‘great and the good’, but with the Chelsea Pensioners.

She planned her own funeral service down to the last detail, and the choice of hymns and readings reflected her faith. Her grand-daughter Amanda, very poignantly read from the section on the ‘Armour of God’ from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Perhaps a final reflection from the former Prime Minister on the spiritual battles she faced on a daily basis, and the need for the individual believer to take up the all the elements of protection provided by God.

Margaret Thatcher fully understood the Gospel, recognising that peace with God could only be secured by a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. She agreed with the great truth in the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.

The former ‘Iron Lady’ passed away at the age of 87. She had become a frail old lady, with a failing memory, whose health had been in decline since her late 70s.

With God salvation is individual, not corporate and the decision to follow Jesus is a choice that each of us must make as individuals. While Margaret Thatcher’s detractors held their death parties in order to satisfy their pent up desire for vengeance, perhaps they were unaware that they had one thing in common with the former Prime Minister. As individuals, they too will have to give an account of their lives before the living God.

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