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01 June 2012

Virtuous governance

Virtuous governance

There’s something beautiful about longevity. This four-day weekend, a range of events will mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne. We’ll watch the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, take part in the Big Jubilee Lunch, and enjoy the Jubilee Concert. The final day of the long weekend will be marked by a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, during which a special prayer will be offered for her.

The Psalmist muses that those who dwell in the shelter of the only true Sovereign and rest in His shadow will be satisfied with long life and shown His salvation (Psalm 91). It reflects the shalom intended for humanity. The contrast with lives that were brutally cut short in recent weeks could not be starker. Dark shadows were cast when 49 children were killed in the Houla region and six kids died in Derby when their house was set on fire. Longevity and shalom seem light years away from these tragedies.

The Catholic mass to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee also contains a special prayer for the Queen, requesting that in her governance she continue to grow in every virtue. In his book Virtue Reborn, N.T. Wright shows that virtue occurs when our habitual choices have been wise. In Proverbs, wisdom is personified in a woman. Wisdom invites us to come and learn. She will keep and guard us and place a graceful garland, a beautiful crown on our head (4:9).

Wisdom is needed to be genuinely human and therefore vital to good governance. Whether our vocation concerns governance of the family, classroom, boardroom, city, or nation, we need to be virtuous people. The woman in Proverbs 31 is such a gem. A home-maker, entrepreneur and artisan whose character is noble and whose heart is big. She loves her work, her family and those in need. She mentors with sound advice. A diamond with many facets. Undoubtedly, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of her wisdom. No wonder her husband is proud of her. His praise crowns her virtuous life.

Solomon started as a virtuous leader, who did not ask for himself long life or riches, but understanding to discern what is right. In response, God promised him a wise and discerning mind (1 Kings 3:11-14). Yet, much was lost along the way and, subsequently, dark shadows were cast instead of light. N.T. Wright asserts: “From a Christian point of view, then, virtue cannot be conceived solely in terms of the individual journey from a standing start to a future destination. It belongs within an end that has already begun, an eschatology that has already been inaugurated.”

If like the woman in Proverbs 31, we want to smile at the days to come, we need to grow as virtuous worshippers, allowing wisdom to shape all facets of our life into the diamond He has in mind. Each life individually highlighting the beauty, relevance, joy and compassion of the Christian life and the enduring hope for God’s suffering world; and collectively, even more so.

Enjoy the party in honour of the Queen. Beyond that, may we live long lives in honour of the King and see His salvation.

Marijke Hoek, coordinator Forum for Change