Would Jesus Vote? Part 1
First, let me say that I do not presume to know the mind of God. The best I can do when trying to answer this question is consider the Scriptures, in particular the life and ministry of Jesus. After considering the issue for some time I have to answer the question would Jesus vote, with some confidence, probably not.
This post was spurred on, in part, by a blog-a-logue about who God would vote for. I have been putting these ideas together for a little while and have written about them elsewhere, but decided now would be a good time to put them on the blog.
It is my belief that Christians should abstain from all forms of government including voting, joining the military and serving on juries. This belief is certainly not new. In fact this has been the position of many Christians all the way back the early Church fathers. Since that time the Anabaptist/Mennonite and similar traditions have held to this understanding. The idea also had a place in the beginning of the Restoration Movement tradition, of which I have been a part for most of my life, although it isn’t held as commonly today it is making a reemergence among many members of our fellowship and elsewhere.
Let us take a brief look at Scripture.
In Matthew 4 we learn that satan has dominion over the kingdoms of earth and the authority to give them away. Jesus rejects satan’s offer but does not deny satan’s claim to have authority over earth’s kingdoms.
Matthew 5 tells us that it is those who are persecuted, not the ones with the power to persecute, who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 6 Jesus says seek first the Kingdom and God will take care of the rest.
In Matthew 18 Jesus says the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who serves, not the one who has power.
In Mark 15 Jesus claims to be the King of the Jews, even though earlier he rejected the chance to be a king in the way of the kingdoms of the world.
In John 16 we are reminded of satan’s powerful grip on this world as he is called the prince of this world.
In Hebrews and 1 Peter we are called aliens and strangers to this earth.
Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 that soldiers, in this case meaning followers of Christ, do not get involved in civilian affairs. In other words we leave politics of the empire to the politicians and we focus on pleasing Christ.
It seems to me that Jesus never tried to have some kind of political power struggle, nor did any of his followers for the first three hundred years of the church. Why is it that modern day conservative evangelicals, among others, think that we need to have righteous judges when Jesus was crucified by a corrupt government, and Christians were relentlessly persecuted for hundreds of years under some of the history’s most despicable and cruel ruling bodies? When do you ever read about Jesus talking about Christians taking over the government? When did Paul write anything about Christians being in command and forcing other people believe what we believe? In fact I remember something like, blessed are the persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Didn’t Paul say Rejoice in the Lord always, as he sat in prison? Notice he didn’t say rejoice when you are getting your way, and he didn’t write that statement because he and the other followers of the Way were the ones in control.
Jesus never, to my knowledge, preaches that we ought to solicit the government in any way to legislate morality. In fact it seems that church has been most successful at reaching people for Christ when it was a faithful minority, not an outspoken majority. The church grew in the first few centuries after Christ like wildfire without any political power to speak of. Instead they were seeking kingdom power, resurrection power, which starts with dying to ourselves in order to be raised to new life in Christ.
The way Christ lived and taught certainly aimed, successfully of course, to have an eternal impact. If it was good enough for Christ to love people where they were and confront them in a gentle and caring yet firm manner then why does the modern church insist on asserting the power of majority and government to solve social problems while missing out on changing people for eternity?
The teachings of Jesus are about our dedication to the Kingdom of God not to any particular nation or government. Jesus not only taught this, but his lifestyle seems to demonstrate this as well. Instead of soliciting the government to bring about social change, Jesus just met people’s needs and shared with them the love of God. As a matter of fact in John 16:15 we see that Jesus retreated from a crowd because they wanted to make him their earthly king. Jesus had no interest in that because he sought only to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is so convicted about the importance of God’s kingdom that he tells one man in Luke 9:60, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God takes precedence over everything in our lives and cannot be compromised by our active allegiance to a government or political party. Jesus also taught by his example that we change the world not by political power but by being suffering servants who are willing to put our lives on the line in order to share God’s incredible love and amazing grace with a world in need.
If Jesus had ever mentioned a particular political belief I am sure it would have been a tense among the disciples since they certainly had a wide variety of political views. It is especially interesting that we find no comments on the hot button political issues of the day in the Gospels. Matthew in particular would have had reason to list these as he was a tax collector who likely espoused a very conservative political mindset because it would have benefited him greatly. He never mentions any of the discussions between he and liberal Simon the Zealot, never hints that Jesus may have ever commented on their discussions or corrected one or both of them. Instead we have Matthew writing more than the other Gospel writers about the Kingdom of God. Matthew could have easily worked his political views into his gospel or shared how his views were changed if Jesus had ever mentioned how the disciples should handle their political affairs. Instead we have a Savior in Matthew’s gospel who is remarkably silent about the politics of the empire and just as vocal and active in bringing to earth the politics of the Kingdom of God. If Jesus stayed away from the politics of his day, while always implementing the eternal politics of the Kingdom, which by they way naturally subvert the worldly political system, then what business do His followers have in participating in the politics of our day?