Jesus, Politics, and Christians

Ever wonder, “What would Jesus say today in our policial environment?”

We live in a time when many are drawn to extremes. Duh. This includes our politics, and almost everything else. There are lots of sociological reasons. We are told by our individualistic culture that it is GOOD to get what you want. Our commercial advertisers spend billions to reinforce that life is about getting OUR NEEDS met. You deserve a break today. Social media pushes us to self-centeredness and away from altruism. Identity politics call us to focus on our own externals: like skin color, ethnicity, age, sexual preference, dogmatic preferences, education, or economic level, to find “our tribe.” This pushes those who aren’t just like us into being outsiders, the “others.” Our news and information sources have been monetized to gain a market share, and so they are rewarded to preach extremes and tell each tribe what we want to hear. Our political camps use anger and vilification of the other side to garner support.

Most importantly, at least from my vantage point, a godless world elevates each person to be their own God. What each calls right must be right. What each prefers should be the path chosen. More this. Less this. Bottom line: as the world has lost the love of central God, they have lost much of the love of others. We do not respect God and his ways enough to give up our own ways. It is an old struggle in the Bible: “Who is in charge of defining good and bad?”

This is the spiritual battle humankind has fought since the beginning. Prideful, self-focused living.

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 17:6)

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isa 5:20-21)

“There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (Ps 36:1-2)

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:2-5)

Against this backdrop, the Bible calls us to a counter-cultural way of life when we follow Jesus. Christians are to avoid—whenever possible—disputes. We are to surrender our give up our preferences for the sake of others. We are to die to our own particular ways. To see the whole world as full of people God loves, and so to seek one tribe. To put others first. To love our enemies. To live in unity.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3-4)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. “ (Romans 12:17-19)

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  (Luke 6:27-31)

This must be true in our politics, as followers of Jesus. This must be true in our national identity, too. This must be true in our family identity, too. A hard biblical truth: You cannot be committed to God wholly, with all of your heart-mind-soul-strength, and be committed completely to anything else. After God, anything  I love with all my heart is always an idol.

Our personal politics, while we may have views, have to die on this counter-cultural path. Ever notice that Jesus picked a zealot and a tax collector (archenemies) for his band of students? Like picking a Jewish resistance fighter and a Nazi-sympathizer to become a team for three years. Jesus is making a statement here, I think. Get beyond your tribe and learn to love each other. Ever notice that Jesus does not fight the evil Romans OR the corrupt Jewish power structure? Nor does he join the power structures. But instead he sees each person he meets. He takes time to look beyond the price of their robe, the melatonin in their skin, and their personal politics. He sees just people. The Roman soldier, widow, beggar, ruler, wealthy, immigrant—all are treated the same. Jesus finds time to listen to their stories and enter their particular lives. He loves people, speaks truth to them, washes their feet, and dies for them. Jesus sees humanity, and each human, as in need of a transformational touch from the Father God above.

To Jesus, everyone has value. No one is irredeemable.

Jesus is not apolitical or an anarchist. He is simply a part of a Kingdom above politics. “My Kingdom is not of this earth,” he says. We know that Jesus asks his followers to pay taxes, as he does. To those in Rome, whose government was no friend to Christians, Paul encourages submission to the authorities, to whom respect and honor are owed. Peter in the same way tells believers that part of their service to the common good is to fear God and honor the Roman emperor (1 Peter 2:17.) They work within the system around them. But they are loyal to another Kingdom. And his Kingdom values everyone, of any tribal background. It leaves no one as “the irredeemable other.”

Scott Sauls (scottsauls.com) is a favorite thinker of mine. He writes:

“The truth is, it is not possible to be a wholesale follower of the Bible and Jesus and be a wholesale follower of any political party. God created government, but people created politics, and people are sinful so our political systems will also contain elements of sin and blindness in them. As such, wholesale followers of Jesus will carry with them a both/and and a neither/nor posture concerning political parties and platforms. Unless a human system is fully and consistently centered on God (no human system is), Jesus will have things to affirm and things to critique about the system. The American political left and the political right are no exception….This does not mean that Christians cannot align themselves with a political party. But if we do align with a political party, we must hold our loyalty to that party loosely in comparison to the way we hold onto the Kingdom of Jesus, or, rather, to the way Jesus’s Kingdom holds onto us.”

Mature Christians must learn to live this way. Immature faith struggles. Worldly people find it frustrating, or impossible. Our churches and streets are filled with all levels of spirituality. Leading by example to any disparate group is difficult. We all know that. This is even more true of those who choose the way of Jesus because we have to love those we met—of every tribe, nation, and color—and serve them with kindness, for Jesus died because he loved them. It takes wisdom and passion, combined with moderation and thoughtfulness. A spine and a heart. We have to lead and love every person we meet, even when this includes those who are immature, foolish, sinful, or acting crazy. And we have to do this with humility, for we, too, each have our own blind spots and spiritual immaturity.

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