I wish to thank all who contacted me and offered very kind words of encouragement following the publication of the first part of my dealing with this subject.
My Bible tells me of the rearranging of the political borders in Europe in the latter days and I believe we see signs of that happening.
The Lord has not left us without a ‘prophetic map’, if only God’s people would attentively consult it.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
IF THERE WAS A UNITED IRELAND TOMORROW — WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS DO??
Since posting the first article on this subject, it has occurred to me that there are matters I did not touch upon which I would like to do now.
A ‘United Ireland’ is no happy prospect for an Ulster Protestant. As the people of Ukraine have witnessed the animosity and bitterness of Vladimir Putin and his Russian military in the form of artillery bombardments, missiles and drones and invading soldiers across their border, so we in Ulster have had very clear and graphic evidence of the enmity that nestles in the heart of the southern Irish Romanists in the form of harassing verbal missiles since the birth of our state and ‘invaders’ crossing our border to plant bombs and mount ambushments and assassinations. Of course, there have been those from within our territory, citizens, who hate the existence of Northern ireland and who have laboured by a wide variety of means, many illegal and immoral, to bring about its downfall.
The Ukrainian people have been supported and sympathised with by many, many nations, and rightly so. But that is not the case with the Protestant in Ulster. The government of the United Kingdom, our Government, has shown every sympathy with the cause of the IRA and their bomb and bullet campaign. So much so that political restraints were placed upon the security forces so that they did not do what they could have done in a very short time, wiped out the IRA terrorists. Even though it meant the murder and maiming of many hundreds of civilians, the destruction of many properties and businesses worth £billions and the loss of a great numbers of their own security force members, such was the treacherous connivance of the ‘powers that be’ to undermine the well being of the Protestant people and their place within the United Kingdom, that it was considered that such was a price worth paying!
We have seen all too many United States Presidents cosying up to representatives of the IRA terrorists over the years for us not to learn that the USA would gladly see the demise of Protestant Ulster.
Why is this so? Well it all comes back to the Bible!
A long time ago the Lord said to the devil: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” Genesis 3:15. There was to be a spirit of ‘enmity, hatred’ placed between the devil and Christ and also His ‘seed’ or ‘spiritual offspring’. The Christian is told by the Word of God and by the indwelling Spirit of God that “We are the children of God,” Romans 8:16. As such, we share in the animosity directed toward Christ by the devil and his allies. That hatred is most widespread for “The whole world lieth in wickedness,” 1 John 5:19.
Protestantism in Ulster is not what once it was! Nevertheless, there remains within it elements of old-fashioned Bible Christianity, the remnants of of the glorious Protestant Reformation. Sadly, much of the old truths have been forgotten by nominal Protestant church-goers, thanks chiefly to the death-dealing plague of modernistic and ecumenical lies from the pulpits of the main churches. However, there remains in this Province a remnant of the old religion of the Bible and it exercises an influence still, to some degree, on the thinking of our society. It is for this reason that our enemies speak of Ulster being ‘dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century’! Ulster has not ‘moved with the times’ because of the roots that have gone down deep into our ethnic persona.
The mere ‘whiff’ of that old Protestant perfume’ is enough to still send our enemies into convulsions of hatred and bigotry.
Just have a look and a listen to old Joe Biden!
Being under such a ‘siege’ of hostility has made the prospect of a United Ireland a horrifying thing to Protestants.One historical parallel, the consideration of which is instructive, is that of the heart and mind and fears of the people of Judah and Jerusalem on being told that their sins had brought upon them God’s judgment and that judgment was them being sent into Babylonian captivity. That for them was immeasurably worse than a the prospect of a ‘United Ireland’. But there is a parallel. For them and for us it means being ruled over by those who have long manifested a hatred of our existence!
1. The Bible reveals that there were amongst the ‘captives’ entering bondage, those who understood what was the will of God for them in the land of their captivity.
In my last article I quoted from the words of God’s great servant, Jeremiah, directed at those entering captivity. “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace,” Jeremiah 29:4-7.
Please note that exhortation that says: “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” Here is nothing of the spirit that we see today amongst our Roman Catholic neighbours and which our forefathers likewise witnessed. I can well remember in my unconverted days when visiting the cinema, as the final film was ending and the short film of the Queen was being shown while the National Anthem was played, the Roman Catholic patrons, or the most of them, rushing for the door rather than stand for the ‘Queen’ while it was played! That manifesting of disrespect resulted in many a ‘punch-up’!
Such a spirit was not that which the Lord wished amongst His people in captivity as Jeremiah 29:4-7 shows. Instead, in such circumstances we are to be as the Christians in the early years of this era. Time and again the New Testament contains exhortations which required Christians to pray for their heathen rulers. Peter thus exhorted his readers: “ Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king,” 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Such submission was a means of overthrowing the slanders against the early Christians that they were lawless and rebellious. They thus were required to maintain a good witness by being good citizens of the land to which they had been brought.
Paul likewise pressed upon his readers a similar exhortation.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” 1 Timothy 2:1-6.
Please note that earnest prayers are to be made for those in authority over us. “First of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority.” This is real prayer, not a mumbling ritual.
Again note that such will be beneficial for the one under the rule of ungodly men. “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Obedience to God, even in a land of captivity, brought benefits. This may be seen in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel, God’s obedient servants, when favour was shown to them by the heathen kings that ruled over them!
2. Even under the heel of the oppressor, the child of God is required to manifest a love for their souls and make every effort to witness to them of God’s truth.
I always think of that compassionate response of Paul, while was on trial before King Agrippa, to the insults of Festus. “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds,” Acts 26:24-29.
As I said, Paul was on trial and pleading his cause. But note the impact of his words. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Not, “Almost thou persuadest me to set you free.’ but rather these are the words of a man under conviction of sin as a result of the loving witness of the persecuted servant of God. Paul’s compassion is further manifested in his closing words. “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”
Here is no spirit of resentment or bitterness but rather a Christlikeness. Remember how He prayed on the cross. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34.
3. If this spirit is the spirit of the true Protestant should he find himself overtaken by a ‘United Ireland’, then captivity will become an opportunity for evangelising.
When Saul, later known as Paul, was converted, such was his reputation as a persecutor that Ananias, who was directed to go and aid the stricken Saul of Tarsus, reacted with fear. “Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake,” Acts 9:13-16. The persecution he would face would provide him with many opportunities to witness for the Lord.
A little incident in my own life entails something of this but to a very much smaller measure than that of Paul’s experiences. A number of members of our Kilskeery congregation, men, women and children, held an open-air meeting in Trillick outside a local public house. We were witnessing against the government’s slackening of the licensing laws and allowing pubs to open on the Lord’s Day. A few bottles were thrown at us for it was a strong Republican clientele which frequented this pub. Shortly after we started a number emerged from the pub and stood opposite our meeting on the other side of the road.
When I finished preaching a number of us went over with tracts to witness to these men. I approached one man who was holding a large mug of beer in his hand and offered him a tract. He immediately said to me: “Foster, we know every move you make and we could get you any time we want.”
Now that sort to attitude is ‘grist to my mill’ and I immediately leaned in close to him an said: “The day you set out to shoot me, you better have more in your hand than a pint of beer for I might not be the easiest person to murder!’ The conversation continued along those lines for a few moments and then I said to him: I have no fear of the murderer’s bullet for along time ago I was saved by the grace of God.” I then gave him a brief account of my conversion. I ended by saying, “But if it is you who gets shot, where will you go?”
By the time we ended, his complexion bore a remarkable likeness to the foam on his beer. I count that one of the most effective witnesses I have ever had.
That man is possible now dead! I wonder if he heeded at all what I said.
4. Faithful, obedient Christians, even in an alien environment may see much good wrought for themselves and those who would be counted their enemies.
There is no better example of this than the little Israelite maiden we read of in 2 Kings 5. She has been stolen away from her family and friends and taken to Syria. This was her ‘United Ireland’. The Syrians were age-long enemies of Israel and at that period were engaged in frequent raids upon Israel.
The spirit of this wee lassie may be seen in her reaction when she hears that the man in who house she is enslaved, the Syrian Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, has incurable leprosy. Doubtless, he has tried many so-called cures but he remained a leper. Listen to the Word of God where the little girl’s response is recorded, indisputably for our learning! “And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel,” 2 Kings 5:2-4.
No clapping of her hands and rejoicing in the news of Naaman’s disease. No, but rather an instant sharing of her knowledge of God’s mercy and the pointing to the one who, by God’s grace, could cure him.
That is the spirit God would have His people manifest, should we find ourselves forced into a ‘United Ireland’.
5. Finally, the ultimate example of how a Christian should respond to captivity is found in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus is for us, indeed for all men, but especially for His followers, the ultimate ‘exemplar’ in all matters spiritual, moral and social.
The New Testament record of His coming into this world reveals that He was born into a captive, conquered nation. Israel was under the rule of the fourth kingdom, revealed in the writings of Daniel , that would dominate the ‘world’, that is the known world at the centre of which was the Mediterranean Sea, a title which comes from the phrase ‘sea in the middle of the land or earth’.
Of the Roman Empire, Daniel said:“And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise,” Daniel 2:40. It was under such dominance and cruelty that the Redeemer was born. No one knows better what it is to be a member of a captive people living under the rule of those who despise all that your nation historically represents than the Lord Jesus.
The circumstances of His birth, humanly speaking, indicate the subservience of Israel. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn,” Luke 2:1-7. In such lowly circumstances the Saviour of the world was born a captive!
During His lifetime He showed due obedience to the Roman authorities. “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee,” Matthew 17:24-27. He Who was King of Kings and Lord of Lords paid the tax that was due to the Roman rulers of His land. He surely gives us an example of submission even to an alien culture that in the wise providence of God we have found ourselves under!
When He was wrongfully arrested and tried and executed, He never once manifested a spirit of resistance. Yes, I know that He was at all times aware of the eternal purpose He had come to carry out. He stated that purpose in Matthew 20:28. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Yet in carrying out His Father’s will, He manifested a spirit of submission to the earthly powers that governed Israel.
We are required to live in a world that has no time for Christ or His followers. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me,” John 15:18-21.
Nevertheless, despite this animosity we must be conformed to His holy example. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:5-8.
The Lord Jesus could easily have escaped from His captors when they sought to arrest Him. However, He rebuked Peter for using the sword in a vain attempt to defend Him with those wonderful words that display just Who He was. “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Matthew 26:52-54. In all matters what the Holy Scriptures said governed His life. So it ought to be with us.
Were we to come into a ‘United Ireland’, then God’s will would be for us to fulfil the Holy Scriptures which tell us: “ Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well,” 1 Peter 2:13-14.
Contrary as it may be to our earthly spirit and sense of honour, we will nevertheless find it easy to submit to the political circumstances which brings about a ‘United Ireland’, should that ever happen in our lifetime, when we recognise that to do so pleases the Lord. That little verse in 1 John 3 sets out the governing truth to which we must yield. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight,” verse 22. As it was with Christ, when He said; “ do always those things that please him (His Father),” John 8:29, so it must be with us!
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
25th March 2023