Politicians, political junkies, and social activists have not been shy about co-opting Christ for their cause. At various times, statements like the ones below have been made or insinuated by devotees of one party or the other:
- Jesus would be against big business.
- Jesus would support welfare programs.
- Jesus would vote pro-life.
- Jesus would support a woman’s right to choose.
- Jesus would denounce the war in Afghanistan.
- Jesus would support prayer in schools.
- Jesus would be in favor of same-sex marriage.
Last night, I added another one to that list:
- Jesus would support Health Care Reform.
Of course, your take on Jesus’ response to nationalized health care probably has more to do with your politics than your theology. That’s not to suggest that Jesus’ teachings never translate into political policy, but that those who mesh the two usually jettison (or simply overlook) elements of Christ’s ministry and teaching in order to use Him to sanction their political opinion. Yesterday, I was reminded of one such aspect of Jesus’ life and teaching.
We have been studying the Gospel of John on Sundays and our pastor, Jim Mann, spoke a wonderful message yesterday entitled “The Betrayal” (you can find the podcast HERE ). In speculating about why Judas betrayed Jesus — and why many people today fall away from Christ — Pastor Jim noted the politically charged age in which Jesus ministered.
With the Romans in charge, politics were simple: Pay your taxes, do what you were told, and stay out of the way of Roman authority. If not, you faced imprisonment or execution. Nevertheless, groups of Jewish zealots emerged plotting takeovers and subterfuge. More than once, the crowds sought to make Jesus king, hoping to overthrow their political oppressors. But at every turn, Christ refused to enter the political fray. “My kingdom is not of this earth,” He said, en route to His execution.
Pastor Jim rightly wondered whether Judas had such political motivations. Perhaps he had come on board hoping that Jesus would spearhead a revolution. At the least, they wanted Him to put up a fight. Yet when the Roman soldiers came to take Him away and Peter whacks off one of their ears, Jesus rebukes him: “Put your sword away! All who live by the sword, die by the sword.” And “as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Is. 53:7). After performing miracles and claiming to be God, this must have confused, if not bothered, His disciples.
As much as people want to attach Jesus to their political agenda, He was clearly apolitical. When given a chance, He did not condemn the government. He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mk. 12:17), which must have torqued those disciples with political aspirations. Christ’s kingdom was not of this earth, which made its relationship with the kingdoms of this earth all the more unique.
As much as I am angry, depressed, and concerned about the expansion of the U.S. Government, I must remember that I belong to another kingdom — two kingdoms, to be exact. One is temporal, one is eternal. This is not to condone political inaction in the City of Man, but to put it in perspective. There is a time to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” to pay your taxes, protest, and call your congressman. But, like Jesus, there is also a time to be silent.
Which leads me back to my question: How would Jesus vote? Frankly, I’m not sure he would vote at all.