The Politics of Jesus

By definition, the Kingdom of God is diametrically opposed to any political platform. I don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or just Indecisive. Good. Now I have your attention. 

We live in, perhaps, one of the most politically and socially charged generations ever. The year 2020 has brought on unprecedented circumstances that have rocked modern society—a global pandemic, economic turmoil, social unrest, racial tensions, etc. People on every side are restless, nervous, fearful, and some are even angry. 

The church stands in the middle of this global crisis and should be shining as a light of compassion, love, and mercy. In this climate, the voice of the church should be bringing clarity, peace, and hope. We, in alignment with Jesus’ new commandment of love, should be the bridge connecting people of every socio-economic background. 

Yet, in the middle of the most significant opportunity the church has ever seen, Christianity has allowed the chaos and the concern of society to distract her from her mission. Instead of reaching, we have resorted to criticizing. Instead of compassion and love, we have been guilty of judgment. 

How has this happened? How did we lose focus on our mission? The answer may surprise you. 

Let’s look at the first century Jews. The Roman Empire formed the context of Jesus’ ministry. Like Egypt, Babylon, and Persia, the Roman Empire offended the Jews by publicly worshiping idols and being a constant reminder to the Jews of their unfaithfulness to God. This sort of frustration led the Jews to long for the promised Messiah who would restore them from exile; the long-awaited Messiah would act decisively on their behalf, and he would do it politically. 

So, when Jesus appeared as a carpenter’s son from Galilee, the Jews refused to acknowledge Him as their long-awaited Messiah. Why? Because Jesus didn’t fit their political narrative. 

Every time we see the crowds press Jesus, every side was determined to make Jesus fit their perspectives. Jesus refused to allow them to make His ministry fit their political or social agendas. 

First, Jesus supported the governmental systems of his time. So did His apostles. We know Jesus paid taxes and encouraged his disciples to do the same. To those living in Rome, whose government wasn’t always friendly to Christians, the apostle Paul encourages submission to the governing authorities who are “ministers of God” and to whom taxes, respect, and honor are owed. Peter likewise tells believers that part of their service to the common good is to fear God and honor the Roman emperor. The Bible also highlights God-fearing men and women who served in public office. Deborah served as a judge over Israel. Joseph served as prime minister for the Egyptian Pharaoh, Daniel served in the court of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, and Nehemiah was a trusted official for the Persian king Artaxerxes.

But when it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe Jesus would side entirely with one political viewpoint over another. Instead, when it comes to kings and kingdoms, Jesus sides with himself.

In Joshua 5, Joshua and a military general have an encounter with an angel of the Lord. They are heading into battle, and they ask God, “God, are you for us, or them?” The answer is startling, “No…” 

This is significant. The question isn’t whether or not God is on our side; the real question is, “are we on God’s side?” 

I recently heard Andy Stanley say something profound. He said, “Are we willing to evaluate your politics through the filter of our faith, rather than create a version of faith that supports your politics?” 

It seems like today’s Christian climate is like Joshua and his military general. Regardless of which side of the aisle you stand on, we’re standing on our political platform, screaming at God to prove that He is on our side. All the while, God is saying, “no.” 

God is not a Republican, and God is not a Democrat. Jesus is the king of a different kingdom. Let’s look at how Jesus’ followers viewed politics. 

There was a wide gap in political diversity among Jesus’ disciples for a reason. Among the 12, Simon the zealot, and Matthew, the tax collector stand out. Zealots work AGAINST the government; tax collectors work FOR the government. 

You might say Simon was a right-wing “small government” guy who thought the state should keep out of people’s business, and Matthew was a left-wing “big government” guy who made a career out of collecting taxes for the state. Despite their opposing political viewpoints, Matthew and Simon were friends, and Matthew wants us to know this.

Matthew’s emphasis on the zealot and the tax collector living in the same community teaches us the value of the hierarchy of loyalty. Meaning, our devotion to Jesus and His kingdom must supersede our allegiance to any other cause, political or otherwise. 

The community of Jesus is supposed to be a diverse group of believers’ who can come together, love and support each other, and unite together. In other words, we should feel more “at home” with people who share our faith, not our politics, than we should with people who share our politics but not our faith. 

Jesus’ act of love on the cross destroyed the dividing wall of hostility that separated people based on race, politics, and social status (Eph. 2:16). 

First-century Jews missed the first coming of Christ because they were too focused on a political agenda. If we are not careful, Twenty-first-century Americans may miss the second coming of Christ for the same reason. 

Yes, Christians should vote. Yes, Christians should stand against immorality in government. Christians also must value unity over conformity. 

Let the Cherubs seated upon the mercy seat of God be our example. Wings outstretched, the angles agreed on mercy. Interestingly, they looked down and not at each other. The principle is clear; we don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, but we must agree on one thing—the glory of God. 

Our loyalty should be to Christ and His body first, politics second. Let’s get back to what matters. If a zealot and a tax collector can love each other and worship together, what is our excuse? 

Published by Joshua McElhaney

Joshua McElhaney has served over 15 years in ministry, serving as both an Assistant Pastor for over a decade, and as lead Pastor. During his time in leadership, Joshua learned many valuable lessons about leading. Using his own experiences and the troves of Biblical treasures, McElhaney has created resources that will enlighten, empower, and enable leaders across the spectrum to lead the way God has called them to lead. Joshua married Karena, his college sweetheart, in June of 2007. Together they have three beautiful children; Mayli, Jaxson, and Asher.

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