So this is the second version of this article. I sat down to write something helpful and uplifting about the election that will be happening shortly. What came out was a litany of all the depressing and negative things that this election cycle has already done to our county and might possibly do in the future. Needless to say, it wasn’t very “helpful” and it definitely wasn’t “uplifting”. The more I chewed on the topic I realized that I didn’t need to recount the horribleness that we see around us. Instead there were two important questions that kept coming to the top: 1) What would Jesus do if he were here and 2) what would he have us do as Christians?
The first question can be answered by looking at what Jesus actually did when he was living on Earth. When we look at what Jesus did in the Gospels we can make a fairly good guess that Jesus would have some very strong things to say about the entire political system, not just the current candidates. However I don’t think he would ever get involved with that system.
In the Gospels Jesus was, in some ways, surprisingly political. Whether it was turning over tables of the money changers or challenging the authority of Caesar, Jesus got in the face and under the skin of all of the politicians of the day. We can even see this in the fact that he was killed on a Roman cross, which was a public execution method primarily used to suppress political dissidents and revolutionaries. Jesus was very good at exposing the corruption and evils of those who were in power.
At the same time, however, Jesus was also very non-political. In the temptation story the Devil offers him political control over the whole world and he rejects the temptation solidly and outright saying, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” In the Gospels Jesus certainly has something to say to the politics of his day, but he is very careful not to get sucked in by the political machine.
All of this tells me that if Jesus were here today he would have a lot to say not just about the issues of this election, but about the whole system of government endorse a particular candidate.
Now, if we as Christians are in the business of imitating Christ, then paying attention to Jesus’ example gives us something of a guide for what we should be doing as well. Yes, there might be particular politicians who hold certain views on different issues that may be closer or farther away from what is God’s ultimate hope for this world. However, I believe that Jesus would have us remember that power is a corrupting force on all politicians and that our ultimate allegiance should be with Jesus, not a political party or even a particular country.
As Brethren we stand in the tradition of Anabaptism, the tradition that was the first to question the official state/church relationship and to put forth the idea of the separa-tion of church and state. We are the ones who have known for hundreds of years that our hope should firmly be in Jesus Christ and as soon as you start to marry the church and the state we will be seduced and corrupted by that power. At times this has meant that we have abstained completely from involvement in forms of government and even the voting process. Within the last hundred years, however, many Brethren have taken a much more active and involved stance to events in our world and even in politics.
Today I believe that Jesus would caution us against either extreme. We most certainly have a responsibility to speak truth to power and work for the increase of God’s Kingdom in all corners of this world including our government. How-ever, we should be very cautious to place our ultimate hope in politicians or any human government. Our calling as Christians is not to be indifferent to the political process, but we must be crystal clear about the fact that we worship Jesus Christ, and that our allegiance is to him and not a particular candidate or party.
I actually believe that this particular election matters a lot. This election will have massive consequences on everything from our local city council, to state reps to national legislators and the president. However, what this election has also shown us is that if we are looking for hope and salvation in a particular candidate or political party, then we are looking in the wrong place. Even after this election we have an ongoing job as Christians to work for the Kingdom of God in our world. But as we engage with the American political system, whether it is in the voting booth, in private meetings, or protesting on the street, we must first be grounded in Jesus Christ.
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.