Jesus and Politics

The Platform of Jesus

“As members of churches we are also members of other groups and institutions—political parties, economic organizations, regional and national associations. Each of these constituencies has its vested interests, its value systems, and its authority figures. We cannot deny our participation in these groups; in fact, it is of the utmost importance that these memberships be acknowledged, lest we become unconsciously possessed by them. But the challenge before us as followers of Jesus Christ is to make conscious decisions as Christians, honoring our commitment to him above the claims and assumptions of every other authority” (from Seeking God’s Peace in a Nuclear Age: A Call to Disciples of Christ).

As Christians, we are both citizens of Heaven on earth and citizens of our country, the United States of America. As such, we are faced with an important presidential election  and many people, both Christians and non-Christians, are concerned about the choices we have, or lack thereof, with regard to the candidates.

Jesus’ Mission — Salvation for All

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor(Luke 4:18-19 — Jesus declaring his platform, quoting from Isaiah 6:1-2).

There has been months and months of campaigning which have served to sort out political messages and winnow down the field to the two major party candidates before us—Donald J. Trump (R) and Joseph Biden (D). This campaign started in earnest over a year ago and most of us are rather tired of it. Most of us are particularly disappointed in the outcome because we are left with very unfavorable choices on both sides of the political spectrum. And though we have heard about the candidate’s actual platforms, programs and plans they intend to enact if elected, what we we’ve seen and heard, for the most part, is the “politics of personal destruction” and we are weary and discouraged.

In the Bible we find early in Jesus’ public ministry that he did announce a platform. While he did not spell it out in detail, we see that he set forth key principles that were to guide him in his ministry (notice the underlined words in the quoted scripture above). It is apparent that no one could foresee (he knew, of course!) what direction this would take, which in Jesus’ case led to the cross. It is significant that he enunciated these principles at the start of his ministry.

As Luke records Jesus’ life, the occasion quoted above was when Jesus went into the synagogue (in Nazareth) on the Sabbath, as was his custom. He was given the scroll and he read from the 61st chapter of Isaiah: Jesus declared that he came to bring total salvation to people. The noun for “salvation” is soteria in the Greek, with the verb, “to save,” being sozein. When used in this instance, it means both to “save a person in the eternal sense” and to “heal a person in the physical sense”. New Testament salvation means a lot more that we typically consider. It is common to think of “salvation of the soul” but Jesus was referring here to a salvation “as encompassing all of life.”

After Jesus rolled up the scroll and sat down, he expounded that his platform was not only for them—the Jewish people—but for people everywhere. This speech got him kicked out of the synagogue and even endangered his life as some tried to throw him off the cliff just outside of town. But Jesus, in his masterful way, walked through the crowd and carried on where no one touched him (see Luke 4:20-30).

The gospel (the Good News) has been described as “foolishness” by Paul (1 Cor. 1:18). Surely Jesus’ announcement of his platform and his exposition was foolish. Of course, he wasn’t running for office, nor was he in any position of authority (from a worldly or temporal perspective), but he was clearly putting a “political” stake in the ground. He was declaring that God (with his initiative) was reminding the people, that there was (is) indeed a platform that was worth building one’s life on… one worth dying for. Yet, if Jesus wanted “votes,” he seems to have lost most of them that day in Nazareth. This shows that no one should ever try to equate the gospel with a popularity contest. The gospel is not intended to be popular; it is intended to save people. It is designed to do this for people of all backgrounds.

As you turn in your ballot, do so with a clear conscience, knowing you did your civic duty to country. At the same time, remember that your first allegiance is not to country but to God and that as a Christian, we are all together committed to the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Our country and our political leaders are merely a means to that end.

IGH,

Pastor Rich

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