Ethics & Christian living

The Queen gives us a model of how to talk about faith publicly

Over the last 10 years the Queen has been increasingly open about her Christian faith in her Christmas Day message. This quote particularly struck me from her speech this year:

The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light.”

Whatever your views on the Royal family, I think everyone can learn from the way that the Queen speaks about her faith.  These are my four reasons:

1) She speaks personally

“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.” (2014)

“It is my prayer this Christmas Day that Jesus’ example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.” (2012)

No one has a more public role than the Queen, but she is markedly personal in the way she talks about her faith. She continually uses words like ‘for me’; ‘my life’ and ‘my prayer’. Like all personal testimony, this is powerful and induces respect in those listening.  

It is in contrast to politicians and others who hedge their bets and share bland platitudes about ‘Christian values’.

2) She focuses on the person of Jesus

“For Christians, Jesus is ‘the light of the world” (2020)

“This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.” (2012)

“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general…but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” (2011)

It would be easy for someone in her position to offer a anodyne message about thinking of others and being kind. But the Queen is unabashed about talking directly about the person at the heart of the whole Christmas celebration.  

And she doesn’t just mention the ‘J’ word – she talks about both the example and achievement of Jesus.  In doing so she is sharing orthodox and accessible theology to the widest possible audience.

3) She speaks inclusively

“The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.” (2013)

“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.” (2014)

Obviously the Queen is Head of State for a very diverse group of people. This year she spoke about the Hindu celebrate of light at Diwali and how the pandemic has affected all religions.

And consistently, the Queen emphasises that God’s love is for all people and that believing in this love should drive us to respect and value everyone, whatever they believe.  It is the opposite to the kind of faith which seeks to silence and destroy those who are different.

This inclusivity resonated with my own experience of meeting the Queen in 1997, when she came to open a hostel for homeless people where I was manager. I introduced her to all the residents and we spent half an hour together.  I had expected it be formal and awkward but she was incredibly adept at talking to such a diverse range of people.

4) She speaks about faith in action

“Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead.” (2020)

 “Reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people.” (2013)

“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” (2011)

Anyone speaking effectively about faith today cannot do so by just speaking about abstract beliefs – they need to make the connection to what faith does. This is why the church’s work in running food banks and night shelters is such a good illustration of what faith is about.  

The Queen refers to the reconciliation, service and love which flows from Christian commitment. It emphasises that faith must make a difference to how we live – it must be a force which helps us become ‘better people’.

Clarity and confidence

Many people have misgivings about the opulence and inherited privilege bound up with the Royal Family. But many Royal-sceptics also have respect for the way the Queen conducts herself.

And what I most admire about the Queen is her on-going willingness to express her faith with such clarity and confidence in the public sphere.  Too few Christians, (however loud or confident they are within church-settings) have the courage, imagination or depth of conviction to do this.  

In speaking personally, focussing on Jesus, being inclusive and connecting faith to action, I think this 94 year old offers a great model for how Christians should speak about what they believe.

Maybe I’ll ask her to do a guest blog post…

12 thoughts on “The Queen gives us a model of how to talk about faith publicly”

  1. A brilliant article. She was so explicit yesterday; repeatedly mentioning her beliefs and Jesus and yet once again the media completely ignored that in all reporting. But it’s there in her speech for all to hear. What a great advocate she is. God bless her.

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    1. Thanks Tim. It is interesting that although the Queen is on the front page of almost every newspaper this morning, much of the comment focus on hugs rather than anything to do with faith.

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  2. I think we must also applaud her this year for mentioning other faiths and holidays in addition to her own practice from Christianity. Thus she is both personal and inclusive.

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  3. As concerning the Word of life, Luke 10 section 25-28 says: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
    Luke 18 section 18-25 says: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 5 section 43-48 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    In Old Testament, the Jewish people and their ancestors were given the Law to observe. First, What Adam and Eve should observe was that they could not eat the fruits from the tree of wisdom. Then, their son Cain was told that he should not kill. As sins became increased, the laws were also added more. Up to the generation of Moses, the Law in Old Testament was given to Israelites. We know that the Law is good and the Law is used to punish people who commit sins, but people cannot obey the Law because the sinful spirits are in people. Even that we know stealing and giving false testimony are sinful, but greedy and pride spirits in us drive us to do sinful things. So as Old Testament prophesied we need to get rid of our sinful nature from our spirits.
    Jeremiah 31 section 31-33 says: “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    Ezekiel 36 section 24-27 says: “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
    The prophecies are fulfilled when Jesus begins to teach love. The two greatest commandments are ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love is above the Law and if people have love they are free from the law of sin and death. People who are full of love will not think about stealing or giving false testimony but are merciful and they feed hungry people or give thirsty people something to drink or invite strangers in or clothe people who need clothes. The Law is for people who commit sins. Nobody will say that he will get reward because he does not steal before. But love is the grace we get. And with love we will get eternal life.
    Romans 13 section 8-10 says: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    Luke 17 section 20-21 says: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,’ Here it is,’ or ‘ There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    John 4 section 23-24 says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

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