To me, "Christian politics" carries the same meaning as "Non-violent
terrorists." No meaning, but contradiction. The once popular slogan,
"What would Jesus do?" is also meaningless to us humans. Would Jesus be
a Republican, Democrat or Independent? Would Jesus enlist in any
nation's military to "serve His country"? Would Jesus fight to bring
back public prayer in our public schools? Would Jesus pray for His
favorite baseball team to win the World Series?
What did Jesus do? The unpredictable. He produced enough wine from
water to keep a week long wedding celebration of hundreds of guests
going. He fed not 5000 people, but 5000 men (heads of households, plus
their wives and children, perhaps 20,000 people or more, twice), with a
couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. He angrily overturned the
tables of merchants in the outer court of the temple and chased them
out into the street. He addressed His chief apostle, Peter, as Satan,
then gave him the mandate to "feed My sheep." He didn't protest the
temple tax, but paid it with a coin taken from the mouth of a fish,
explaining that what is Caesar's is his and what is God's is His. Jesus
always separated the church from the state.
Jesus would not accept the urging to leave His listeners to meet
with His mother and brothers wanting to talk with Him, saying, "Who are
my brothers and mother? Those who do the will of My Father." As
a twelve year old child, Jesus knowingly left His parents behind on a
caravan from Jerusalem to Nazareth. When Mary and Joseph returned to
look for Him in extreme anxiety for three days, they found Him
discussing deep spiritual knowledge with the Hebrew scholars. In
response to His parents' grief, He said, "Don't you know that I must be
attending to my Father's business?" Precocious child, no? Jesus meant
no disrespect, but made it clear what He discerned He was about.
Then, in His extreme physical and spiritual agony while dying on the
cross, He took care of His filial obligation by turning over the care
of His mother to His apostle John. He insulted the religious leaders of
His time with colorful and descriptive adjectives like "vipers" and
"white washed sepulchers" marking rotting flesh hidden from view. Then
He told a guilty man hanging on a cross next to Him, "Today, you will
be with me in paradise" upon hearing only the man's simple request,
"Remember me in your kingdom."
Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My
disciples would have fought to keep Me free." One did fight upon Jesus'
arrest, cutting off the ear of a Roman soldier. Jesus told Peter to put
away the sword and He supernaturally grafted back the soldier's ear.
Prior to this, John the prophet and baptizer grew confused while
contemplating "What would Jesus do" in a dungeon waiting for his head
to be chopped off. John, like many Jewish zealots, expected the Messiah
to carry on the traditions of war and conquest recorded in the Old
Testament. He might have thought, "Did I baptize the right man? He
doesn't appear willing or preparing to serve His nation by freeing us
from the Roman occupation."
Distraught, he sent a messenger to Jesus with a basic question, "Are
you the One, or shall we wait for another?" Characteristically, Jesus
didn't reply directly. He sent this message back: "Report to John what
you hear and see; The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who
have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the
good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall
away on account of me" (Matthew 11:4-6). Jesus often spoke in double
and triple layers of meaning. Physical sight and hearing and health
were only shadows of what was happening in the spirit of humanity, and
what would continue to happen when His martyrs (literally meaning
"witnesses") would be infused with His Spirit and become His voice,
hands, and feet. Jesus' message to John was to transcend nationalism
Remember those world maps hanging on the walls of our classrooms when
we were kids? North and South America were always in the middle. The
rest of the world was cut in half, Europe, the Middle East and Africa
on the right side and Asia on the left. When being taught world
history, my little kid mind would look quizzically at those maps,
trying to visualize the divided continents merged. No nation is the
center of the world. Will Christ ask US citizens, "Did you serve your
nation well?" I, for one, can say I did. But Christ is not an American.
If He asks that of us, we are certain He will ask Chinese, Russian,
Indian, Peruvian, African and even North Korean citizens the same
thing. What would Jesus do? I am certain He will not ask those
questions. My certainty does not come from my philosophical musings,
but what Christ Himself said He would ask the people of all nations:
"Did you care for the poor? The homeless? The prisoners? How did you
treat the least of My brothers and sisters? The most scorned and
despised by the people of the world? Whatever you did for them, you did
for Me. Whatever you did not do for them, you despised Me and My words
and My people."
Jesus certainly transcended politics. What would Jesus do? Our
governments and secular institutions cannot do what Jesus would do.
What Jesus would do requires self-sacrifice and self-denial. What
government or institution can practice self-sacrifice and self-denial?
Not even a theocracy can do that without opening itself to destruction.
No government will subscribe to a policy of self-destruction to achieve
the good, quite the opposite. Self preservation and self-promotion and
expansion of power and influential control is the priority of any
government. And so it must be. But that is why Jesus disclaimed
allegiance to any government or institution of this world, since His
way requires the destruction of ego, personal ambition and
self-promotion in deference to union with Him.
The Roman Empire and the Jewish leaders just could not believe Jesus
had no political allegiances or ambitions. So His torturers mocked Him
as a dethroned king. "King of the Jews? Ha! Where are your subjects? A
king without a kingdom? Over your head on the cross will be a posting
that says, 'The king of the Jews'. That will bring many laughs to my
executioners!" (And they did laugh at Him from His scourging to His
death.) There are some (perhaps many) Christians who also do not
believe Jesus has no political or national allegiances today.
Those of us who espouse "Christian politics" are stepping into the
tracks of those Roman executioners. No politician will tell the people
who commit sin with their eyes to pluck them out in favor of the soul's
health. No politician will refuse to defend him or herself against the
accusations brought against Jesus, that He was a devil's agent, tainted
with dirt, a drunk, a glutton, an iconoclast of Jewish tradition and
law, a threat to the occupying Roman Empire. Jesus was decidedly
antithetical to politics. His kingdom was not of this world or any
nation in it. What would Jesus do? I cannot say, for I am not divine.
But I know what He did do. And with His divine strength and wisdom,
gifts to me, I will continue to learn what He did do and strive to do
likewise. That is also the path no politician would take, for it is one
of suffering, self-denial, and allegiance to the kingdom of God above
all. We are consoled, however, by the Christ's words, "Seek first the
kingdom, then all else will be added unto you." Let us seek first this
kingdom, then wait to see what the "all else" is. But let us not seek
the kingdom so that we will gain the "all else." That just brings us
back into the political world of self-promotion, something to avoid,
just as Jesus did.
The Gospel's translated meaning is, "Good News." However, this Good
News is tinged with what we perceive as demanding. What indeed is more
demanding than the sacrificing of our egos and self-promotion? In that
sense, the Gospel is scary and challenging. "The road is narrow, and
few find it." Why? Perhaps because we are not ready for such a journey
and would rather take, as Jesus described, "The broad way." That way is
more in line with our desire for self-promotion. So people want to tame
and dilute the Gospel, forcing it into a welcomed paradigm of
prosperity, love, peace for all. We like nice things that are easy on
us, do we not? A Gospel of prosperity on earth, blessings from God on
the nations that claim to be Christian, the alignment of God on the
side of the political right and His despising of the political left,
ah! don't we revel in His favor and blessings? Only to those ignorant
of the Gospel and arrogant in perceiving their "personal" relationship
Jesus never sought that which all politicians do, the goal of being
respected and esteemed. His was on a different mission. Every
institutional authority in Jesus' time on this earth condemned Him.
Though it may seem to be a strange assertion, that is actually "Good
News." If we understand in what way it is, then we can find solace in
our understanding of the Gospel. Then instead of placing our feet into
the footprints of the Roman executioners, we place our feet into the
bloody tracks of the Christ. Which is more difficult? Which requires
self-sacrifice? Which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Sometime
during our lives on this earth, we must decide. "Then all else will be
added unto you." Or, it won't.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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Spiritual Resource Services © September 7, 2006
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