The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and many across the world are mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week. Shortly after her death, there were messages of condolence from democrats and despots, journalists and politicians on the Left, Centre and Right, ordinary people and those of noble birth across the globe. In these divisive times, the Queen is universally admired, even by people who dislike the Monarchy. I’m convinced she was one of the most respected human beings ever to walk the earth. It’s also remarkable that the Queen earned that respect through more than seventy years of public service, with cameras tracking her every move and decision. Rather than wilt under what must have been immense pressure, she resolutely executed her responsibilities with dignity and an uncommon sense of duty.
In a world where many leaders are entangled in scandals or possess disparate private and public personas, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who knew or worked for the Queen to speak negatively of her. You can potentially hide your real character from people for a year or ten years, but not for seventy years. Furthermore, while scandals have plagued and continue to plague many in her family, her reputation has remained untarnished. So, either she was unerringly good at hiding her improprieties or a woman of integrity. While I’m sure she wasn’t perfect, I’m inclined to believe the latter. Like many who mourn her passing, I never met her, but I respect her longevity of service, dedication to duty, and the consistency of her character. She lived a remarkable life which compelled the respect of friend and foe alike.
As a Christian, there’s much to learn from her example. Firstly, Queen Elizabeth was outspoken about her faith and accountability before God. She often used her Christmas messages, packed with biblical truths, to communicate her faith and its practical applications in everyday life. Some who knew her have remarked that she knew her Bible. It seems more people can tell you about the Queen’s faith than those who can tell you about her politics. In Colossians, Paul instructs believers to ensure that their speech is “… always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that they may know how to answer everyone…” [Colossians 4:6]. I believe the Queen is an example of this verse lived out. It’s possibly one of the reasons she was so widely admired by different groups of people. Her words so often sought to encourage and foster unity rather than divisiveness and rancour. We desperately need more leaders like her today.
Something else mentioned in her passing by a remarkably diverse group of people who met her is how she treated others. It’s not just the rich, powerful or famous who spoke about her warmth; it’s also the ordinary person on the street. The Bible has much to say about how we treat others, something the Queen highlighted in her 2004 Christmas message and lived out as well as she could during her reign. It seems there was no cognitive dissonance because, by most accounts, she treated those she encountered with dignity, and for many, it left an impression. As a Christian, her life compels me to ask how I would fare if I were in her shoes. Would I lean on God as she seemingly did, or would I place my trust in my status and influence? Would I be known for my commitment to service, respect for others and integrity? What would be my legacy?
There was a time when we had several elder statesmen and stateswomen who had accomplished much on the world stage and were almost universally respected because of how they lived and the legacy they were creating. These men and women modelled values like wisdom, patience, resilience, integrity, discipline, service, etc., and had much to teach about life and contributing to society. Such leaders seem to be in short supply today. Nevertheless, it behoves us to observe the lives of those we find and learn from their example. Jesus calls us to be salt and light in this world [Matthew 5:13-16], and He’s given us His immeasurable power to do it [Ephesians 1:19]. As such, every Christian is given a mandate and equipped to impact the world in a godly way. It isn’t going to be easy, but if we demonstrate a similar commitment to duty and service shown by the late Queen, God’s grace will take care of the rest [2 Corinthians 9:8].
Most of us will not have a platform to preach and live the Gospel as the Queen did, but God has given us a platform and a sphere of influence to be salt and light. These wise words from the Queen are most instructive as we live out our faith in the public square: ”… To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life…”(Christmas message, 2000). So, be faithful in serving God’s purpose wherever He places you and for as long as you have breath in your lungs [1 Corinthians 10:31]. Serve your family, local church and your larger community at every opportunity with love and integrity. Let your faith speak louder than your politics, and pray for the grace not to be deterred by the sacrifices required to live a life of service.
As many mourn the Queen’s passing, my hope for her is that around 18:30 BST on the 8th of September 2022, she heard these words I long most to hear from The King of Kings: “Well done, good and faithful servant…come and share in your Master’s joy” [Matthew 25:23]. If that’s the case, then what a life, what an example!