Elizabeth the Faithful: Reflections on the Passing of a Christian Monarch

In some ways it seems a little odd for a citizen of the United States to write an article on appreciating the British monarch. I imagine some of my revolutionary forefathers would be spinning in their graves. Then again, maybe they could have learned something from Elizabeth II.

In the days to come, there will be many articles, stories, radio programs, and television specials dedicated to covering the Queen’s life and accomplishments. They will do a far better job at that than me. In fact, that’s not really the point of this article. There was much to admire in her accomplishments—from her practical skills and invention of soft power, to her ability to deal with foreign dignitaries and move the Empire into a Common Wealth.  Nevertheless, I want to reflect on something often not talked about—her Christian faith.

As a young woman whose father was king, Elizabeth said that whether long or short, her life would be devoted to serving the British people. Then, during her first Christmas address as Queen, she showed her belief in, and reliance on, God for this task: “I want to ask you all . . . to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”

In the year 2000, the Queen used her message as opportunity to reflect on the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. There she said,

To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teaching of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.  I believe that the Christian message, in the words of a familiar blessing, remains profoundly important to us all.

All of this was unknown to me until her Christmas address in 2014. Then I heard her say, “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.” It was eye-opening. Though previously she had spoken of God and used Christian language, the specificity and tone of her words changed.  Here was someone, it seemed, that was truly a follower of Jesus Christ. And she wanted others to do the same. At age ninety, she worked with the UK Bible Society to make the autobiographical book, The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. This work was published as a giveaway for starting evangelistic conversations.

Yet, being a Christian monarch of a non-Christian nation was certainly tricky. There are people of many faiths (or no faith at all) across the Commonwealth—yet all of them were her people. She had been crowned as their sovereign and must lead and protect them.  She could not show favoritism to Christians or alienate those who were not. She must work with and for all of her royal subjects.  No easy task, for sure.

But Elizabeth did it well. Perhaps better than anyone else given the massive social changes she lived to see.  She lived up to her title, “Defender of the faith.” More than maintain a diluted or even private faith, she held onto orthodoxy and wanted to see it spread. Thus, in the word of another author, she should rightly be remembered as Elizabeth the Faithful.

We are unlikely to see anyone approaching the level of deft statecraft and Christian commitment in any monarch moving forward in the history of the world. The Queen has even been called “the rock” upon which modern Britain has been built.  Echoing the words of Churchill, current UK Prime Minister Liz Truss recently said that she “devoted so much, to so many, for so long.”  In fact, it will be interesting to see whether the British Monarchy even survives the reign of Elizabeth’s son, Charles. But, this just reminds us that no political power gives us hope in this life.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II was successful in her endeavors because of the grace of her Sovereign, the Lord Jesus Christ. Like him, she showed great humility and a desire to serve those around her. And she depended on God to give her strength to serve well.  I can hardly imagine a better monarch to live under. Is it any coincidence that she has been consistently voted the most beloved regent in Britain?  Yet, her entire reign points to the need for an even better King. Only in Christ will we find perfect justice and peace; grace for every need and perfect joy in a world full of sin.

When I consider this remarkable woman who reigned for an unprecedented seventy years, and in all of that time, did not waver in her Christian faith, I am encouraged to remain resolute in my own faith and devotion to Christ the King until he returns.

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