Jesus For Prime Minister Part 1

Churchill once said that politics is

“The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

Politics can be tricky. It’s very personal though it does not just affect you personally. For something that caries such huge ramifications, I believe it is essential to talk about it. We need constructive conversations and hear different opinions.

Just because you think you’re right, it doesn’t mean you are. Just because you have the most to benefit, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best for society.

While campaigning in 1900, someone exclaimed to Churchill: “Vote for you? Why, I’d rather vote for the Devil!” to which Churchill replied, “I understand,… But in case your friend is not running, may I count on your support?”

In this blog series, we are not looking at any political party. We will not be looking at specific platforms. I will not be telling you how to vote. What we will be doing is speaking of the principles in which Jesus came, lived, and how he told us to live. Though the political landscape is vastly different from now–incomparable even, that doesn’t mean that there are not very important principles.

Because politics can divisive, I’m going to leave you with one last story before we jump into things.

A newly elected Churchill had a moustache to show his dignity and maturity. One time a woman came up to him and said forthrightly: “There are two things I don’t like about you, Mr. Churchill–your politics and your moustache.” “My dear Madam,” he replied, “pray do not disturb yourself. You are not likely to come into contact with either.”

Is the Bible political? If it is, what does that look like, and what does it say about Jesus’ ministry?

To fully understand the political nature of the Scriptures, we must understand the culture and what was happening. Israel didn’t rule its self. They didn’t have a real king. They had no political power. Israel had bounced between Babylonia, Persian, Greek, and now in Jesus’ day, Roman forces. This type of rule was brutal. It was violent and built upon keeping the other group down, oppressing, and extreme taxation. Julius Caesar, through a brutal war, took control of the Roman Empire and spread the Good News of a newly united empire. There now would be peace on earth. Runners ran with this gospel to all corners of the empire. Later when Julius’ adopted son Augustus Caesar took over, he declared Julius to be divine thus making him the ‘son of god.'” Now let’s turn to three critical scriptures referring to what Jesus came to accomplish.

Understand this is an oppressed group of people reading about a Messiah. Hear what is being said through their ears.

The first is from Isaiah 9.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Is 9:6–7

Do you hear the trigger words that would cause hope to rise in the heart of an ancient Jew under Roman rule? This passage speaks of a Messiah long before Jesus lived. This passage helps to inform what the Jewish people in Jesus’ time would expect of their Messiah. Now let’s add the angels’ message about Jesus. Remember the trigger words.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Lk 2:10–14

Then in Matthew, Herod is scared to death about this coming king whom the wise men are saying they are visiting. This language doesn’t just have words that trigger something political these are political terms. In a world where there was no separation and fragmentation of life, Jewish people of the time cannot help but hear that Jesus has come to upheave the political system.

The disciples thought it was a physical kingdom, but Jesus was speaking of something much more powerful–a kingdom that rules the material, and that’s a spiritual kingdom. Though they begin and manifest themselves very differently, we must not see a separation in them. They were not separated for Isaiah, Luke, Matthew, or Jesus. These two kingdoms are intertwined. What we see is that even Herod and Pilot felt threatened.

If there were no political ramifications surrounding Jesus’ birth, then why was Herod fearful and start killing toddlers (Matthew 2:13)? If Jesus’ life wasn’t political, why was Roman threatened, and why did Jesus die the way he did?

We will be looking at the explicit teachings of Jesus in the next blog. Before we do, we must see how deeply

the declaration of a coming messiah and him establishing a new kingdom is not just an idea that affects our life regarding eternity. It affects how we live life in the now, and it is the type of life that is threatening to the powers that be.

John Yoder tells us of these terms Good News and kingdom,

“It hardly needs to be argued that ‘kingdom is a political term; the common Bible reader is less aware that ‘gospel’ as well means not just any old welcome report but the kind of publicly important proclamation that is worth sending with a runner and holding a celebration for when it is received.”

N.T. Wright further points out,

“The message was carved in stone, on monuments and in inscriptions, around the known world; ‘Good news! We have an Emperor! Justice, Peace, Security, and Prosperity are ours forever! The Song of God has become King of the World!”

It sounds like they are talking about Jesus. However, they are not. Imagine what the Romans and Jews would hear in Jesus and the New Testament writers’ language. Wright continues,

“The message of the gospel is the good news that Jesus is the one true ’emporer,’ ruling the world with his own brand of self-giving love.”

While Augustus and Herod took, Jesus came to give.

The generosity of Jesus is not just personal but a profoundly political statement on how His kingdom would operate.

The Disciples weren’t crazy for thinking Jesus had a political agenda, he did. When we speak of the disciples getting it wrong, it’s the nature of how the revolution that would take place that was wrong rather than that a revolution itself would happen.

The political nature of Jesus is further propelled by the question, why did Jesus die? Greg Boyd points out,

“In the political world of Jesus’s day, a crucified messiah’ was nothing short of an oxymoron.”

The crucifixion wasn’t something concocted by the first Christians to win people to their side. As much as the Jewish leaders influenced the process, they weren’t in charge. They were the occupied nation. Think of it as the black leaders in the height of apartheid rule in South Africa being able to force an execution, not very likely. As Yoder points out, this only leaves us with one option.

“Herod cannot be seeking to kill Jesus for heresy or prophecy; sedition would be the only possible charge.”

We know this further from how Jesus died. Crucifixion was meant to brutally humiliate a victim who threatened Rome while also acting as a warning to others of their insurrection. Jesus hung on the cross with the charges nailed above his head. What were they? Luke 23 tells us,

“There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.”

Lk 23:38

The sign stated Jesus’ political crime. He was a threat against Herod and Augustus. Jesus had to die because his kingdom was not compatible with theirs.

Even though the Roman rule is vastly different from our governing authorities, even though we choose our leader, that does not mean that it has no effect on us today. Any kingdom built upon a man or woman is a direct contrast to the kingdom of God. Why? Because we are imperfect. However, I don’t think that this means we retreat or not get involved in politics, or don’t vote.


On the contrary, let’s engage, get involved, and vote. We must vote with a Jesus conscience. We need to be asking ourselves these questions.

What policies would he make?
How would Jesus treat the poor?
How would Jesus use the military?
How would Jesus structure our economics?
How would Jesus deal with immigration?

These are important questions. How they manifest is not clear. As a follower of Jesus, we must think through these questions as we vote.

Jesus doesn’t tell you how to vote. He gave you a brain. We also have a community so you can wrestle with these questions. Most importantly, Jesus gave you the Holy Spirit to help you, in community, to explore the Scriptures, your heart and experiences, and in prayer to know where He is guiding you.

We need to have God’s kingdom mindset. That means it is not about voting, which is best for you, but voting for what is best for society — voting for who best represents God’s Kingdom.

What are some of your thoughts on the politic of Jesus?

Check out the resources used in this post

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Spiritual Atrophy

It slowly dies. Laying there–not moving–stuck within the solid cast of what is comfortable. What was once vibrant becomes a gelatinous blob.

It is what happened to my leg when I ruptured my Achilles tendon. What was once a thriving muscle, strong, capable, and functional, today after nine months of recovery is weak. Yes, at one time, it was powerful (I hate to brag…), but now it is extremely weak. I’m thinking of starting a small group with John Wall and Keven Durrant so we can give each other moral support. 

The same thing happens to us spiritually. For many of us, when we begin to follow Jesus, we work hard and develop our faith. We passionately worship. We tell others of Christ. We study the Scriptures and open up our hearts to the Holy Spirit, revealing God to us in fuller ways.

Then something happens.

Whether it’s from a wound, fatigue, arrogance, or complacency…

We stop.

Our beliefs become cemented in time as though our current revelation is infallible, and we retain all knowledge.

Of course, we don’t say that. Our action, however, shows it.

We bunker down and get comfortable with our faith.

Life in Christ should never be comfortable.

Although I too find I sometimes am.

We get comfortable, and our spiritual life is stagnant — kind of like the lukewarm water in Revelation 3. Spiritually atrophy sets in. We think that we are supposed to be comfortable. As one T-shirt said, “If God wanted me to touch my toes, He would have put them on my knees.”

We no longer work it out. Stretching it is irrelevant. Our spiritual life doesn’t stay in stasis, though. Our relationship with God slowly wastes away. It needs to be used and worked.

As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says,

“The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.” 

Wilson & Cohen

Our relationship with God is not doctrine, dogma, or theory. It is not a service or even reading the Scriptures. While these things can help us connect with God, let’s not be fooled in thinking that they are the relationship.

Just as a marriage isn’t a piece of paper, a shared bank account, children, or even sex, but a relationship founded on love and discovery. Of course, these things help bind a couple together, but if we build our relationship upon these things alone, the cells of a relationship slowly begin to disintegrate.

As atrophy sets in, we begin to think it is normal. “Oh, yes, those new Christians are so on fire. Just wait, they will settle down.” 

WHY?

Why do we accept this?

It is time to work our spiritual muscles and reject apathy, arrogance, complacency, fatigue, or anything else that causes us to settle in and settle down. The Apostle Paul says to the church in Corinth,

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Co 9:24–27

Let’s always continue to push, fight, stretch, work, and reach. Let’s follow God with intention and purpose, knowing that it is Christ and Christ alone who is the giver of life. God has called us to more than just settling in. We’ve been invited to live bigger, bolder, and better.

Checkout the resources used in this blog

What if we’re all just trying too hard

We were all from different backgrounds. White, black, male, female, middle-aged, young, theologically trained, laypersons–all from different denominations. There was something that united us and brought us together–we wanted to grow closer to God.

While we build our discussions around a book, like any group that’s worth going to, we digress to the issues of the heart. 

Hatred, family, struggle. 

These things arose in conversation. 

Boundaries, community, grace.

These were discussed as a solution.

They were important topics that flowed out of one question, what do we do with the Old Testament. Everyone in this group needed a new paradigm to understand. Looking at it through the lens of Christ is a great idea, but sometimes it is so tough to see Christ. Books like, What is the BibleCrucifixion of the Warrior God, and Cross Vision came up. We even discussed understanding the Scriptures as Midrash

The Bible is hard. Some passages don’t make sense.

What do you do with that?

It can be super stressful. Have you been there?

Here, our life is supposed to be built on the person of Jesus who we see primarily in the Scriptures, yet there is so much that doesn’t make sense. There is so much more. However, that is beautiful, life-giving, and challenges us to live a bigger and better way–that calls us to a higher standard.

As we talked, discussed, struggled, someone said something simple, yet, profound. “What if we’re all just trying too hard.”

Boom!

He referenced a scholar who said that studying Scripture is just something he does. It was fun. 

Maybe the reason we can’t have productive conversations around the Scriptures in cross-denominational circles without someone being offended, angry, and calling another a Heretic is because we take ourselves way too seriously.

Of course, church history doesn’t bode well in this light, either. Saint Nicolas once punched Arius in the face during a theological debate.

I believe the Scriptures are to be wrestled with. The story of Jacob makes that clear. But when we take ourselves too seriously, we cannot approach the Bible with humility.

When we take ourselves too seriously, whatever opinion we derive from the text becomes what the text is saying, and when that is challenged, that challenge is against us as a person.

We need the Holy Spirit to speak to us and allow the Spirit to speak through the Scriptures. We must know that whatever ideas, doctrines, concepts we extract from the Scriptures are not exhaustive. Why? Because we’re not God. We have fallible lives. We are not omniscient. 

We need the Holy Spirit to speak to us and through us. We need the community to challenge us, offering different perspectives that push our interpretive paradigm a little further–stretching us in how we interact with the text.

Humble hearts are what’s required with this text. The ancient words–this God-breathed text–these profound but sometimes archaic words, can change our life in radically good ways. First, we must realize we’re not God. We need community and humility. More importantly, though, we need the Holy Spirit to minister to us.

Check out the resources used in this post

What if that politician was made in the image of God

It is election season in Canada, where I live. The signs are out on the lawns and along the road. The politicians are having their debates and going door to door. The pundits on the news and in articles are voicing pleasure and concern–who won or who lost the debate, or which candidate dirty past faux pás is the most damaging.

The big telltale sign that there is an election happening…

Facebook!

It is that time when everyone is sharing the articles and expressing their opinion toward each candidate.

What shocks me is the verbiage I hear and see Christians use when speaking of someone. I understand the politics can be dirty. I get that the decisions our leaders make, affect our lives in very real ways.

I hear words like,

Idiot
Pig
Stupid
Worthless

People expressing sentiments about wishing said politicians had never been born.

When I reflect on Scripture and words of Jesus, what I see is that these sentiments toward politicians are un-Chrisitan. I feel quite safe saying, anti-Jesus.

Genesis 1 states that we were all created in the image of God.
Psalm 139 says that we were created in our mother’s womb by God.
Jeremiah 29 declares that God has plans for a hope and a future.

The basic premise is that we need to see every person as a child of God who He loves–who God creates in His image.

When you call them a “moron” or “garbage,” you are calling God’s image-bearer, His child, whom He loves, names.

It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with their policies. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be critical of campaign promises, track records, and their integrity. We must understand, however, that this does not change the value of a person.

Politicians are people too.

They have parents. Siblings. Children. Spouses. Friends.

Most importantly, they have a God who loves them.

When we look at Jesus’ life, he had some very harsh words toward leaders. We do not see him calling names. Instead, we see word pictures calling out their integrity.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!

Mt 23:13.

You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Mt 23:15

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Mt 23:24

You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Mt 23:25–26

You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Mt 23:27

These are some harsh words! They address action and character, not a person’s value. Jesus loves them and wants to see them whole.

Jesus’ call to us is to be agents of His love. The Apostle points out in Romans 5:6 that when we were still totally opposed to who God is, He came and gave His life for us. As we have received grace, we are to extend that same grace forward.

After all, Jesus stated,

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Mt 5:43–45

Next time you see one of those posts, brother and sister in Christ, I encourage you to pray for that politician. Pray God’s favour on them. Pray that God blesses them and reveals Himself to them in wonderfully new ways. Be willing to extend grace.

Let’s be people of love.