Let’s talk a little about politics.
To the very end, the disciples accepted the prevailing religious view that the coming of the Messiah would bring about a return to national sovereignty and usher in (or restore) a political system.
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
We’re still trying to use Jesus to make our political points.
There is an ongoing effort to ascribe political opinions to Jesus.
“Jesus would SO have been a democrat. He taught us to care for the sick…not to profit off illness. I don’t know how Republicans can live with themselves and call themselves Christian.”
“It is impossible to be a Christian and vote for the Democratic values, they are in complete opposition to the word of God.”
It’s easy to argue both sides using scripture.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
While a great response, this is not really a conclusive answer. Jesus is batting the question aside, because it has no relevance to his mission.
The people we’re astonished by his answer, but…
Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”
Jesus avoided the political question, but still was accused of a political crime
Jesus’ death was a political execution.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Jesus did not come through death and hell to reform our political systems. He died to ransom and redeem our souls, to gather for himself a great family of the free.
“My Kingdom is not of this world.”
No governmental system will bring the “Kingdom of God” to the earth. Jesus will return to do that himself.
His kingdom is heavenly, expressed on earth through those who receive him.
People in every nation on earth – communist, capitalist, socialist, brutal dictatorship – are part of that kingdom.
Jesus would most likely find truth / righteousness AND evil / hypocrisy in both sides of our political system.
Jesus would avoid the political question and ask the “heart” one.
The mission of the church is to make disciples. This will not be accomplished through political systems, legislation, or government edicts.
When faith is made the business of the state, it loses its power.
You can legally enforce behavior, but you can’t legislate belief.
Government systems that co-opt faith: the Holy Roman Empire, The Crusades, The Church of England, Islamist states, etc. – can be as abusive as atheistic dictatorships – sometimes more so. They don’t lead people to God – quite the opposite.
When we look to political systems to advance our values, we often lose sight of our responsibility to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.
GREAT EXAMPLE: If our collective conversation about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick ends with our understanding of what the government should or should not do, we are no different than the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus says “I hold YOU, as an individual, responsible for what you did or did not do for the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and prisoner – the least of these my brethren.” Is it enough to say “I voted for programs for the poor but did nothing myself” or “I voted against government handouts and then also did nothing myself?”
It is not enough to live in a country that does things the way you think they should be done to fulfill righteousness. Jesus says your righteousness has to exceed what you are FORCED BY LAW TO DO. Matthew 5-7 can be summed up as “go beyond the law” – exceed the minimums.
I’m fine if you have political views, but I want us to be a community working together to put our faith into action. I want us to be so consumed with sharing God’s love and making disciples that our political differences seem trivial. (Next week I want to present an idea of something we could all do together).
Does this mean we should be absent from the political process?
Of course not. We should vote our conscience, be involved in causes that we believe will help people, and respect, honor, and pray for those in authority.
We echo the words of the apostles that “we should obey God rather than men” when forced to choose between the two.
The difference is in making earthly kingdoms our SECOND allegiance, not our first. We do not await a savior from Washington DC.
Where do you fall on the political spectrum? Politically active? Partisan? Apathetic? Uninterested? Something else?
Do you know anyone who combines faith with politics (online, in person), or have you done this in the past? What effect does this have on you and others?
How do we balance our civic duty to vote and participate in a representative republic with our faith in Jesus?
Is it wrong to try to achieve a righteous goal through political processes?
Do political questions sometimes muddy up your conversations about Jesus with non-believers? In what way? How have you tried to work around this?
ONE MORE THING
Read Acts 24-26
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
When given the opportunity to speak truth to power, Paul, disciple of Jesus, chooses the life, death, resurrection, and gospel of Jesus as his first, last, and only topic. Paul was politically engaged – he knew how the system worked. But he was clearly from another kingdom.