Jesus and Politics

Many Christians I talk to suggest that maybe we shouldn’t talk about or get involved in politics at all. It is just too divisive. My experience is that it is only divisive if I disagree with you. In other words, talk all you want about politics, pastor, as long as we are in agreement.

Someone told me the other day that Jesus never talked about politics. Wrong. Jesus called out the religious leaders and political leaders of his day. He stood tall against the oppression of the weak in every way imaginable—all the way to the cross.

When you study the Gospels — and the political and socioeconomic backgrounds behind them — you begin to realize why Jesus was feared by all the major political parties. Jesus’ message was incredibly political. His teaching and parables on law, taxation, party attitudes, the judicial process, and foreigners challenged all the political leaders of his day.

I’ve come to believe that people hold their views about almost anything because of a combination of three factors:

Intellectual/theological reasons

We all hold our views because they make sense to us. I think about when life begins, and I believe it begins in the womb—at conception. That impregnated embryo is a live person who is fearfully and wonderfully made. So, it only follows, for me, that it is not fetal tissue it is a baby. Therefore, to take that baby out and dispose of it is taking a human life.

That makes sense to me.

But there are those that feel pro-choice is a complex process – it’s not just about abortion, but about birth control, or having a child – it’s about all reproductive choices. It’s having access to information so that a woman can reach their own decisions without interference. And it’s about who makes the final decision. Not a judge or the government, but the woman. It’s about having options and celebrating freedom.

That makes sense to them.

Emotional or personal reasons

When emotions get injected into an argument it inflames your thinking and is why you see so much anger at the rallies of both candidates.

Lynette and I watched the film “42” about the life of Jackie Robinson. The actors portraying racism in the film showed so much anger, disgust, and contempt for black people it was shocking to watch. If you ever read about the Jim Crow south and what was done to African-American people it hurts your heart, but you must remember that the perpetrators of those prejudices felt very deeply that they were right.

They might not have thought very deeply, but they felt deeply.

Social reasons

We hold our views about an issue or a party because of the social context we find ourselves in. We like to fit in. We want to be a part of the tribe. And when we spend our time surrounded by people that think like we think we get caught in a trap that some might call an echo chamber.

An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.

The more one watches cable news channels, read blogs, or engage in conversation with friends or family that affirm their view of how things should be, the more deeply ingrained those views become.

These three concepts are pillars that hold up our core beliefs. Changing one of these pillars will never change a belief. This is why we fight so hard and resist arguments so passionately. And it is why Christians can fight each other over political or theological issues.

How do we break out of this and follow Jesus’ method of cultural change? Jesus shows us the way as He stood before the governor of Judea, the politician, Pilate.

 And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” Mark 15:3-4

Pilate is saying, “Jesus, they are killing you! Look at what they are doing! Look at the charges brought against you, aren’t you going to defend yourself?” Pilate must have done some investigation and a background check of some kind on Jesus. Jesus was no threat. But Jesus refuses to use violence or power or anger or rage to defend Himself. This was a strange thing for Pilate to witness.

Jesus Had an Inner Peace

If we follow close enough to our Master, we will absorb that same inner peace.

Pilate saw the contrast between Jesus and His frothy enemies who were so threatened by his message and methods that they were frantic in their attempts to make sure that Jesus was not set free.

But Jesus is so calm and serene as if He knows that he is on a divine path that is being orchestrated by His Father. Forces from outside this realm were at play, writing the script as it was being lived out in that moment. Jesus trusted the Author and is calm and worry-free.

His enemies are using power to destroy Jesus. Jesus is using weakness to destroy power. His enemies took up political structures, procedures, and intrigue to do away with Jesus. Jesus lays down all his power and embraces weakness and vulnerability. They are enraged and violent—-Jesus forgives his enemies.

This is not how you start a revolution! Revolutions start with violent insurrections…by taking power and destroying your enemies. You out shout your opponents. You out organize them. You fire up the base! Yet Jesus is starting a revolution through loving His enemies and forgiving them.

Jesus Destroyed Power with Weakness

This is the most counter-cultural aspect of the way Jesus dealt with politics.

In our times, the religious right and left have mistakenly assumed that if they get power; if their candidate gets in office and can exercise his or her power by appointing justices to the supreme court that hold to their world view or other places of influence they then can get their country back to where it ought to be.

That was not Jesus’ way. Jesus didn’t try to lead Herod, Pilate, or the high priest Ananias or Caiaphas to his cause. The only persons of influence that were interested in Jesus’ message and kingdom were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. And they came to Jesus. (we don’t know how Joseph came to Christ)

Jesus’ strategy for His Kingdom was never to stack the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court and Congress of His day) with his followers.

Earthly power was never The Jesus Way. Power politics will always deteriorate into an idol where the ends justify the means. For two thousand years, history has shown us that when the church gets in bed or even flirts with the state—bad things happen for the culture. Everyone loses, except the state.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation.  ~ Saint Paul

How do we live as followers of Jesus in a post- Biden/Trump victory on November 3rd?

Have you ever heard of “The Jesus Prayer”?  “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is based on the publican’s prayer in Luke 18:13.

The word “mercy” in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance that was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. Remember the story of the Good Samaritan?

Olive oil

The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting, and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hessed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’ that is to say, ‘Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’

If the followers of Jesus would allow themselves to be oil in the hands of the Great Physician, we could bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted and the battered souls of our land. But we can’t do that if we are busy trying to win through power. It only comes through weakness. Jesus showed us the way.

Fernando Ortega has become one of my favorite artists in the last few years. Here is his song Kyrie Eleison:

Would you pour yourself out with me?

“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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