Posted tagged ‘Would Jesus Vote?’

Would Jesus Vote? Part 2

June 17, 2008

Please see part one here.

Here are some other reasons that have biblical foundations but are largely based on my experiences and observations.

I have found that party politics as well as international politics greatly compromise our allegiance to Christ. People act as if they are a Republican or Democrat, an American or an Iraqi first, instead of being a citizen of the Kingdom of God first and foremost. The kingdom is much bigger than that. It is greater, more beautiful. It certainly says God bless America, but it also says God bless Iraq, Iran, Canada and the rest of the world. That is what the kingdom is for, that is why Christians are here, we are to share God’s blessing with the whole world, no exceptions.

 

When one says the pledge of allegiance to the flag isn’t that comparable with the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendigo. The king wanted their allegiance even ahead of their allegiance to God, but these three men were not willing to give it even if it cost them their lives. If I pledge allegiance to a flag and thereby the country that flag represents then I am detracting from the allegiance that I have pledged fully to Christ. Now I don’t deny that the pledge and our country often stand for good, and right and noble things but they are not and cannot and will not ever be the Kingdom of God and therefore they attempt to usurp the authority of God whenever a Christian gives these things his or her allegiance. Jesus taught about money that we could only serve one master. This principle must be true in all parts of life. We either can look out for the interest of the State and serve it as our master or we can live out the Kingdom and make Jesus our Master. When we try to have it both ways we try to serve two masters and our total loyalty cannot be dedicated to either one.

Political affairs are often divisive. The church has enough issues that we like to debate and fight over so why do we need to bring a person’s political views in to the mix? If I say that I am a Republican that automatically makes some people feel a sense of pride while others cringe. If I say I am a Democrat the same is true. I remember years ago while sitting in our school’s chapel listening to a speaker and he mentioned off hand that he was a Democrat. At that point in my life I automatically tuned him out because I was raised in a politically conservative family and to me a person who was a democrat must not be a faithful follower of Jesus. I have heard a lot recently, probably due to the upcoming presidential election, Christian people from “both sides of the aisle” demean and belittle those who hold opposing political views. This is especially sad to me when it is a Christian attacking another Christian. I remember Paul saying something about the way we are a body, now how much sense would it make for the left hand to cut off the right hand because they were from different sides? Not much. But this is what is happening throughout the body of Christ. In recent years I have since come to know that people from all walks of life and all political understandings can be followers of the King, but it is my hope that we all are willing to let go of our labels and even be willing to put our political views aside in order to hold on to the politics of Jesus; the politics of service, of love, of forgiveness, of prayer, and of worship to God and Him alone.

 

The politics of the empire or the republic are too complicated. The politics of Jesus are very simple, albeit rarely easy. If we let the complexity of partisan and national politics muddle up our lives and our time then we often miss out on the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel. We have enough things in our lives vying for our time without having to concern ourselves with who we are going to support in the next election or which amendments we need to vote on, or campaigning for a person who we probably truly know very little about or at the very least is certainly not someone in whom our hope should be put.

 

As we discussed earlier it seems that satan has dominion over this age and the earth. He is called the prince of this age and Jesus doesn’t deny the devil’s authority over the land during the tempting of Jesus. This leads me to believe that all governments, even the best ones, are inherently deceptive. Governments have always felt it necessary to keep certain things a secret for the “good” of the people. The truth is often skewed, obfuscated, twisted, shaded, and spun in an attempt to mold our perceptions of the government offices and leaders. Therefore, whomever we were to vote for, not matter how honest and how good would be stuck in an inherently flawed system. A system that can certainly be revised and improved, but one that will always be, at its core, deceptive because it is under the dominion of the father of lies himself.  No matter how many Christians we get into our government or any ruling body for that matter, it will still fall short of the glory of God because it is an inherently flawed system and no amount of human effort will ever change that. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God takes wretched people, like me, and transforms them, by the power of God in to something much greater, because the Kingdom of God system is inherently holy and good.

 

It is my view that political power is always destructive to the kingdom when Christians get involved. When a government involving Christians makes a decision then it is often viewed as the Christian understanding whether it represents the views of most Christians or not. If our government goes to war, no matter what one thinks about a particular war, then it is viewed by much of the world as the Christian thing to do since it is often claimed that the USA is a Christian Nation. This is undoubtedly bad and destructive for the Kingdom of God.  It is also destructive because when rulings are made by Christians trying to convert others to their understanding of morality it inevitably drives those people further from the Cross. For instance, however one feels about homosexuality or gay marriage, when Christians vote to pass laws forbidding homosexuals from getting married it drives an unneeded wedge between Christians and the Gay community. It puts up a wall that prevents dialogues, relationship building, and truly meaningful evangelism. If you are too busy trying to change people’s actions you will never find time to show them to the God that can change their hearts.

 

History shows time and again that religion and politics make a poor couple. When the church and the empire get married it is bound to be an abusive relationship and will likely end in a resentful divorce. It is usually harmful to the empire and is always destructive for the Kingdom. Take for instance Western Europe, the Church thrived there for centuries, but most of that reign was tyrannical at best. Now the Church in these countries has dwindled to nearly nothing and often is only held on to because of tradition. It only took two years for the first “Christian” empire to start killing dissenters, labeling them heretics. Christian empires have shed as much blood, perhaps more than any others in history. It was Christians who headed up the slave trade, slaughtered native Americans, led the crusades, fought against civil rights, supported the rise of the Nazis, led the imperial oppression of countries like India, committed the genocide in Rwanda, contributed to apartheid, and still can be heard as the loudest voices of bigotry today. All of this was “justified” by Scripture and all of it related directly to Christians being involved in governments.

 

Our priorities seem to be out of order. We need to work on reforming and restoring and reviving the church instead of trying to get in our two cents in with the government. If we want to change the culture around us then we do it by loving, by serving, by living sacrificially as examples of Jesus Christ. That is what truly changes a culture, that is what changes hearts and minds, and that brothers and sisters is the only way that we bear witness to the Crucified and Risen Messiah.

 

In Paul’s writings he reminds us that we are like soldiers on assignment who have been deployed in to hostile territory and that we should not get entangled in civilian affairs. This seems like a pretty clear directive to me that we should keep our battle against the powers and principalities of the air and not concern ourselves with the politics of civilian life; we leave that to those who have not joined the Lord’s army. Again, the only way we can battle the powers and principalities is by doing what Jesus did, taking up our crosses in selfless, sacrificial service to all people even those who would call themselves our enemies. This doesn’t sound like the way this world’s political system works. It seeks self-preservation by out maneuvering, out campaigning, out witting, or out fighting the opponent, not by loving them and blessing them at the cost of our own lives and well-being.

 

Both 1 Peter and Hebrews also tell us we are aliens and strangers here. With the recent debates over immigration in the States this should be a picture that we can understand with ease. Do aliens have the rights of a citizen? Do aliens have the same vested interests in the foreign land as the citizens do? Of course not. We, as aliens and strangers here are not supposed to fully comprehend the culture, we are not supposed to shape the culture at large through the present political system. When Paul wrote this I believe he also knew that aliens and strangers in a foreign land are a persecuted minority without the power to win in the political arena, but they can win people over to their worldview and lifestyle, or at least to accepting them through their kindness, which by the way is exactly the way God wins us to repentance, through His kindness.

 

In conclusion, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. At the end of the 40 days, Satan took him to the mountaintop and offered Jesus Christ dominion over the world… if Jesus would kneel down and worship him. Satan offered Jesus political power. Jesus would not give in to the temptation of political power because He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus turned down political power. “Was Jesus wrong?”  Of course he wasn’t. That along with the legacy of people like David Lipscomb and the obvious abuse of the church by any government lead me to believe that Christians should stick to our commitment to the kingdom of God and that should be enough for us.

 

Please don’t take my feeble reasoning and understandings as an important source on the subject. Others who have written much more extensively and articulately on the subject include, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Dr. John Howard Yoder, Dr. Vernard Eller, Dr. Lee Camp, Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, Dr. Richard Hays, Shane Claiborne and David Lipscomb, just to name a few. 

What do you think?

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Would Jesus Vote? Part 1

June 17, 2008

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?