Should Christians strike?

Today the British Medical Association joined the ever-growing list of trade unions recommending industrial action to its members, concerning the latest plans to alter NHS doctors’ pension schemes.

With the economic situation as it is, we are seeing increasing numbers of trade unions and protest groups taking to the streets in light of the latest spending cuts, whether those cuts come from the public or private sector.

Is there a distinctly Christian position on strike action, or are we simply meant to do ‘as each one sees fit’?  Is striking morally neutral, in which case biblical faith doesn’t come in to it, or are we given any guidance from the bible for those of us who are faced with potential strike action?

Here are some points to ponder:

Are you striking or rebelling? 

According to Paul in Romans 13, there is no authority unless God establishes it.  (This doesn’t mean that corrupt governments are God’s fault by the way – that’s down to humankind.)  But a free-hanging, general dislike and rebellion against authority is ultimately a rebellion against God.  We may not like what we’re being told to do but that is no reason in itself to rebel.

What is your motivation in striking? 

There may be genuine injustice and oppression that cause people to protest en masse as the only (relatively) safe wayof being heard in the hallways of power.  Scripture is clear that God hates injustice and will deal severely with those who abuse their power by lording it over the poor.  But if at the root of your decision to strike is a desire for selfish gain then it is clearly wrong.  More money, less work or simply just having a nice day off are not sufficient reasons to justify strike action.

Are you ok with being a slave?

There is plenty of practical application towards employers and employees tucked away in the New Testament – Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 3 for a start.  The New Testament writers aren’t found encouraging slaves to rebel against their masters – to go on strike if you like.  Rather slaves are advised to work even harder and be a better employee because they are Christian.  (When the NT talks about slaves, don’t think 18th century African slave trade – it was a totally different system in the first century.)  At the same time, Christian employers are warned to be fair and respectful because slave and employer alike will be in front of Jesus giving account one day.

Where is the grace?

Finally, is your attitude towards your employer (or whoever you are striking against) characterised by graciousness?  Your bosses are people too.  Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.  Whilst this statement has far reaching applications, it is surely no less applicable when thinking about strike action.  Don’t be behaving as if the company/government is the devil himself.  They are not – the devil is far worse.  Christians are meant to be fuelled by grace – too often graciousness goes out of the window when people separate their ‘private’ faith from public matters such as work, politics or whatever.  That is simply hypocrisy.  Don’t forget, ‘love is the fulfilment of the law’.