It’s election season, which is a hunting season where you and I are the game. But we can try to avoid being taken down, strung up, and mounted on a wall. We can try.
We’re going to hear things like, “Jesus was a liberal.” He was? Has he changed his mind? Whatever Jesus was, I’m guessing he still is. “Jesus was a conservative?” Really? He was? Have the conservatives heard about the Resurrection? Because Jesus is what he was.
Am I playing at words? Maybe. I guess when we say “Jesus was…” we mean that he sympathized with, or acted like a conservative, or a liberal, when he was on earth. Maybe I’m straining at gnats, but it feels like an important point. When people begin to argue about what Jesus was, I tend to imagine that their view of Jesus might be, well, incomplete.
Jesus rules and reigns right now. The King of Israel is the King of the nations, enthroned in the heavens. He will be among us again, ruling the New Heavens and the New Earth. And he will reign forever and ever.
So, I’m not too disturbed by anyone who says Jesus is either a liberal or a conservative. He was and is demonstrably both, and demonstrably neither, in some aspects. So, go ahead and argue that fascinating conversation out. But it does bother me that our pretense for conversations about this seem to assume the rightness of our own cause. We then notice that this historical figure Jesus is pretty potent in people’s minds, so we make an effort to pull him over to our side.
Doesn’t it become an argument about whose side Jesus is on?
This is the wrong question.
Ye old, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” That’s a better one.
Hey, go on and work in politics and do good work. Fight for (true) justice for the poor, for the lives of unborn boys and girls, for an end to slavery and freedom of conscience. Go for it. It’s noble. But don’t let’s pretend that Christians aren’t after something much bigger than electoral gains. We anticipate better things.
Jesus is King. All Christians are Theocratic Monarchists.
Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you that Christianity isn’t political. Jesus came as a King. “It is as you say,” he said, when asked if he was King of the Jews. He ascended as King, with all authority and power. He isn’t non-political. He is very political. He isn’t up for election, but he isn’t safely outside of politics, above-it-all, not interested. He is not a cute, cozy little mascot that doesn’t impact anything in the “real world” other than warm and fuzzy inspiration and gentle hints. He is a political King, a King of a real place —every place. He is literally Above It All. Not in a disengaged way, but in a TOTAL RULERSHIP way.
So, it should bother us badly when we hear the King of All being recruited to join an American political party or movement. Instead, we are called to his banner. He is not a celebrity to endorse our candidate, but a Sky God, terrible in justice, beautiful in glory, unfathomable in mercy and love. He is not someone to be used to get more votes. Do not put him on that leash and believe you will be safe to lead him around.
We very easily slide into a confidence in a political party or movement, often believing it is shaped by our faith. That’s possible, of course. Often, the reverse is actually true. We begin to shape our faith as a result of our politics. Instead of the noble goal of using politics to advance our religious views (and everyone does that, and should), we become a tool for a political movement to manipulate. This can result in a sort of fundamental usurpation of the Kingship of Christ.
“A man may have to die for our country: but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.” C.S. Lewis
Theologians call this, this faith in a political movement apart from God, a “competing eschatology.” It becomes another storyline, a false one, about the world God made. It is not often just an innocent thing to dabble in, but a true competition to the place Christ has reserved for himself. The place of a very real, very political King. (Kings don’t come any other way.)
It’s hard, sure. It’s weird to live in a place and time where we are, to some degree, in charge. We elect. We vote. We hire people to govern by our collective choices. It means our stewardship is different than it was for first century believers. We have the challenge of collaborative leadership, instead of the challenge of discerning submission. I don’t want to pretend like I have this all figured out. I don’t. I’m more aware than ever that I’ve got a pretty bad record on this stuff. And it’s hard not to. It’s just a hard situation in some ways. But it’s also an opportunity.
So vote. Get involved. Join an imperfect coalition. Get behind an imperfect candidate. (There aren’t any other kinds.) But render to the Electoral College what is the Electoral College’s and render to God what is God’s.
And what belongs to God? You, to start with. Behave like a child of your Father, a political loyalist to King Jesus. Don’t become a tool that’s been co-opted to build a slightly less-disturbing idol and mistake it for the New Jerusalem.