For Christians, mutual service replaces mutual suspicion and cooperation replaces competition.

During the winter of 1978–79 there was industrial civil war in Britain. We had strikes of bakers, of garbage and other road haulage, railway workers, ambulance drivers, journalists and teachers, and of hospital social workers. During the first three months of 1979 more than five million working days were lost through industrial disturbances, which are more than half the total for the whole of 1978. Something went sour in our society.

Social turmoil is of special concern to Christians because we are in the business of right relations. Reconciliation is at the top of our agenda because it is at the heart of our gospel. Jesus is the world’s supreme peacemaker, and he tells his followers to be peacemakers too. But how?

A vital biblical principle is spelled out in 1 Kings 12. Despite his wisdom, Solomon had been a tyrant. His ambitious building program had been completed only by the use of forced labor. Industrial relations were at an all-time low. So when he died, the people described his oppressive regime as a “heavy yoke” and begged his son Rehoboam to lighten it. Moreover, the elder statesmen advised him to heed their appeal: “If you will be a servant to this people and serve them, they will be your servants” (v. 7).

Nevertheless, this principle remains the essential basis of every constitutional government and democratic institution. It is the principle of mutual service arising from mutual respect. It is service based on justice rather than mere expediency, for it recognizes people as human beings with human rights, made in God’s image, and deserving our respect as we deserve theirs. This is the fundamental truth behind the Old Testament ...

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