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Jesus and Washington

Imagine Jesus in Washington. Picture him interacting with Senators and Representatives in the chambers of the Capital rather than walking with a group of fishermen on the shores of Galilee. Who would doubt that his conversations with Republican, Democratic, and Independent leaders would sound more like timeless wisdom than political spin? Who could imagine him giving any political party reason to feel morally superior?

Jesus and Washington represent different approaches to change. Washington, like Moses, represents the use of laws to externally regulate social behavior from the outside in. There’s a place for that. But the role of government needs to be the lesser part of our convictions. The Apostle John wrote, “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). By contrast to moral legislation and enforcement, Jesus represents change– one person at a time– as individuals, like us, voluntarily invite him to change us from the inside out– by his Spirit.

It’s just as true that Jesus might surprise us by the people he would spend time with–on the other side of the “aisle.” He did in the first century. Why would it be different now?

These are some of the reasons I think we need to try to make sure that our influence in society is based more on our individual and collective example, social advocacy, and appeal to reason–than on efforts to use our political power to collectively capture and control public policy. See if you agree that:

1. A political voice often mobilizes support by concealing its own faults while calling attention to the weaknesses and limitations of the opposition. A prophetic voice is first brought to its knees by its own wrongs and failures.

2. A political voice tends to speak for the special-interest groups it represents. As a result, it is likely to confront the sins of the right but not the sins of the left-or the sins of the left and not the sins of the right. A prophetic voice, in the best sense, represents the interests of all. The messenger of God, therefore, can lovingly affirm “a good Samaritan”, and confront wrongs, wherever they exist– regardless of where they show up in the political spectrum.

3. A political voice calls for external regulation and legislation that often focuses on curbing the freedom of its opponents. A prophetic voice calls on all to submit themselves to God for a personal change of heart, resulting in voluntary self-limitation.

4. A political voice often represents the special interests of supporters who expect material benefits or social influence in exchange for their donations and votes. A prophetic voice represents the interests of God in a manner that rises above hidden agendas or conflicts of interest.

5. A political voice may have to settle for strategies of compromise to maintain an adequate base of support. A faithful prophetic voice does not waver from timeless values and perspectives, and is willing to be “one crying in the wilderness” with accountability to God alone.

6. A political voice works for change through the strength of opinion polls, ballots, and governmental appointments. A prophetic voice calls for change through loving confrontation and persuasion-relying on whatever voluntary change the Spirit of God and His Word will make in the hearts of hearers.

7. A political voice rises and falls on the changing tides of public sentiment. A prophetic voice rests on the ultimate and eternal authority of God.

I’m sure there’s a lot that I’m not seeing and getting right, but I’m trying to find a way of expressing that Jesus did not come to build the kind of kingdom that his followers expected. The apostles who represented him after he left seemed far more interested urging people to let Christ change them from the inside out, than in appealing to Caesar for better laws.

So let me ask you now, do you think such distinctions reflect a way of expressing our dual citizenship? Would you agree that a worst case for followers of Christ would be for our spiritual mission to make us no social and political good– or for our political efforts to detract from our spiritual mission?

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12 Responses to “Jesus and Washington”

  1. eltonteng says:

    Yes, in principle, we want to carry out our spiritual callings above and beyond everything else. The detail in the solutions we hope to bring needs to agreed upon. Part of the solution may yet be political action.

  2. Chuck Franke says:

    I want to focus on your point number 4: “A political voice often represents the special interests of supporters who expect material benefits or social influence in exchange for their donations and votes. A prophetic voice represents the interests of God in a manner that seeks justice and mercy for all members of a society.”
    Here is the Oath of Office for the President and all congressmen:
    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
    You may have stated the reality in point number 4, but as Christians, I believe our political involvement in government is to hold these elected officials accountable to this oath, despite any outside influence they may receive. That to me would seem to be our contribution to the republic.

  3. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning Mart, and eveyone, i believe every thing in all of Creation has a purpose for being in this life, i believe mankind is the only Creation to my knowlege that must find through the guidance of the Holy Spirit what that purpose is.
    Therefore i am fully convinced my mission is not being involved in what is better for our country as we use the term, but what can i do for those God puts in my life evry day where i live, i know politics is someones purpose in life, but i also believe many that say this is their purpose are only in politics for the money, or power.
    I listen to those that are desiring to lead this country, and try to pay attention to what they desire to do for our country, but another of my purposes God has made me aware of is to pray for who ever is leading our country, what ever way they are leading us.
    So Mart i believe getting too involved in politics by using a lot of my time would distract me from the different purposes God has put in my life.

  4. yvetterjh says:

    These are interesting questions that give us a lot to think about. When I first read the questions my first answer was yes, the worst case for Christian believers would be to allow our political efforts, or any efforts, to distract us from our spiritual mission. But then I pondered on the other question. And what’s equally dangerous is if our spiritual mission makes us no social or political good, then why are we doing it? Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that cannot be hidden…. Therefore let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16), who are the men Jesus is talking about? Not other believer, but those in the world, who are on a whole different agenda.

    Our spiritual mission is not just for personal gain; we have a responsibility to our social and political community to show them the Way-always remembering to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”.

    We have to ask ourselves is our light being seen, and if not, why?

  5. misterb says:

    Hello Mart – In part, I have to agree with Gale Jarvis in being a good steward of my time and energy. I am probably like many others in being constantly distracted and losing my focus on what is real and of God. I am currently involved in University Studies and will be debating Values, Code of Ethics, and Code of Conduct. Having served three decades in the military, I am very much aware of Oaths and have seen them administers for years. Chuck brings out some very good points to ponder and I know that he is on target about some of our politicians who take the Oath and tuck it away while serving the public who are entrusted to their care. It is good to know that we serve a risen savior who takes us under his protective wings and never lets us down. We can fully keep our trust in him without ever needing to be concerned about an Oath. Glory to God, his word is sufficient and a a guiding light. This is all we need!

  6. poohpity says:

    A political voice is humans trying to control and a prophetic voice is one that realizes that God is in control and points us to Him.

  7. JCW says:

    great term….dual citizenship,

    since the “world is not our home” the social/political/physical world should always be subject to the spiritual….”we wrestle not against flesh and blood”

    how about integral duality? somewhat of a symbiotic relationship….we live in the world but are not of the world, but since we cease to function here upon death, the spiritual mission should always trump the social, yes?

    if we are always “about our father’s business” then both can be accomplished at the same time. If a cup of cold water given in Christ’s name will not lose it’s reward, and there are good works that have been planned ahead of time for us to do….we are always functioning in integral duality if we are following his teachings.

  8. shayladb2003 says:

    I too like the term “dual citizenship”.

    We cannot forget that we are about our father’s business, not our own. Thus, when addressing political and social issues, we act as he leads, and always in love. Thus, when in balance, our political selves should be accomplishing our spiritual goals as Christ directs.
    I believe, that we must be careful that we do not become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.

  9. poohpity says:

    I feel if we are truly heavenly minded we will be very earthly good. There lies humility and an openness to serve the King of Glory. It is so interwoven, yet some do not see.

  10. daisymarygoldr says:

    To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Jesus never spoke or fought against any of the social and political issues that existed during His life on earth simply because it was not the appointed time and that was certainly not the purpose of His birth. However, He has promised us about coming back one day to exercise authority and rule the nations.
    Today, the same applies to us who have been called to impact society by being ‘light and salt’…we are being public witnesses of God’s glory(not self glory) by praying and doing charitable deeds in secret. We do not make a big hue and cry about war, injustice and other social atrocities…the Bible amply warns us about all these and other evils of this sinful world. Nevertheless, God does requires of us to do justice, to love kindness (Micah 6:8) and to humbly work out our faith as He works to transform this world by transforming us into the image of His Son (‘heavenly minded’) for the eventual ‘earthly good’ i.e. when we get to come back and rule the earth along with Christ!

  11. Mo Bo says:

    All well and good. This Country, unlike most in history, was founded on God and liberty. As such, we are granted the right to influence policy within the boundaries of the law. Therefore, if we believe that our political views are in line with the Bible, we have an obligation to act. The circumstances we are in today are due in large part to Christians sitting on the sidelines and allowing those with a secular humanist world view to change the culture for the worse. A recent Barna survey found that only 9% of self-described “born again” Christians posess a Biblical worldview. Sad.

  12. Abiding7 says:

    I love this post! We could have used this post 8 years ago (maybe I missed it). But, nevertheless, God is always on time. I’m a christian who loves our Lord and
    Saviour Jesus Christ. And, I know my other brothers & sisters in Christ do too. But, 8 years ago, when christians thought “politics” was going to be the “savior” of the world & our everyday lives (and we have to be honest, because we did), I groined & agonize so in my spirit, the Holy Spirit led me back to re-read the four gospels & the book of Acts; to see if I missed somethingi in my christian up-bringing & training.Once I did read these scripture, I was at “peace” in being assured that Jesus, the son of God, is the total source of all my needs. He is my sustainer of everything, not any particular someone in “politics”. I vote at every election that comes up for me and I pray for direction in what and who to vote for, not only for me and my family, but more so, for those less fortunate than myself. I’m still at “peace” today about politics, elections, and voting. I stay in His word for guidance and direction each day, that way,He keeps “my hinds’ feet” above the “earthly good”. I heard someone comment in the christian circle, that in the 21st century now, we’re so “earthly bound”, that we’re no heavenly good”. Oh yeah, one more comment, in re-reading the four gospels and the book of Acts, I haven’t seen any where about we as christians being right-wing, left-wing, conservative or liberal. Just grow to be “christ-like” until he comes back or we go home to be with him first.

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