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Jesus Was a Liberal, or Was He a Conservative?

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.

He IS.

No, USA "Jesus." No.

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.

16 Comments

  1. Hey, go on and work in politics and do good work. Fight for 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.

    This reminds me of this.

  2. I think this should be cross-posted to RR. Great thoughts Sam.

    I always joke that the Kingdom is an absolute monarchy with a communist economy. While we wait for consummation though, democracy and capitalism seem to make the best allowances for the fall.

  3. Good word, Sam. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom 12:1). Whether we live under a collaborative or a coercive system, we do what we can to do good as citizens, but our ultimate role is to “speak truth to power” to remind earthly rulers that Jesus is already King. That transcends politics.

  4. The title should have instead been: “Don’t be a Tool”. You’re slipping sir, but thankfully not in content, only in nam(ing). Good stuff Sam, good stuff.

  5. Very well written, Sam! Thanks for the thought provoking words. Was just reading RC Sproul who pointed out that Joshua stood before the heavenly being in his camp, before the children of Israel went to conquer Jericho. Joshua asked the being, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The heavenly being answered, “No.” A good reminder to us, that we are supposed to be on His side, not limiting (or pretentiously pretending to limit)Him to ours.

  6. Thank you for the interesting and timely exercise. I have been waitinf until after the election to comment on some misguided statements. Pray your family is well and please pass my regards to your mother and father.

  7. I don’t really know what to say, besides “thank you.” I almost didn’t post this, didn’t think it would receive these many kind responses on FB and here. Thank you very much, friends. And please forgive me where I pontificate without understanding. God bless you each.

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