Jesus was born into a world steeped in politics. It was a world of governors, kings and emperors. Whether you were a local ruler or a peasant, there was a pecking order and it paid to know your spot in the food chain.
As Jesus went about his ministry he had a way of upsetting the religious authorities of his day because Jesus’ priority was not to perpetuate existing power structures nor to fatten the wallets of those in places of power. Jesus’ priority was a kingdom priority and Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world.
Just as one my expect today, those whose power and position were threatened would find a way to stop him. They knew that petty religious arguments wouldn’t get the attention of Rome. A Jewish upstart being accused of blasphemy or threatening the temple wouldn’t get much traction with Rome. They did, however, know one thing that would would raise the ire of Rome…this one thing always seems to raise the ire of a lot of people and that was politics. Jesus’ kingdom language could easily be twisted into competitive political language that would quickly get Jesus in hot water with the real big wigs who had the authority and power to wield the sword, or in this case the cross.
As Jesus is arrested and put on trial there is a cry that comes from the masses, who truly despised the Romans themselves, and yet in this moment found the Roman officials, centurions and even Pilate himself as useful to their cause. What was the cry from the crowd?
“We have no king but Caesar!”
As unbelievable of a claim as that is what makes it more unbelievable was the rocky relationship the Jews had with Pilate over the years. I don’t think Pilate was fooled but he was convinced that if Jesus wasn’t handled properly that there would be trouble.
As Pilate and Jesus converse or at least as Pilate attempts to have a conversation with Jesus Pilate learns what is truly going on – that Jesus is truly no threat to Rome, that the charges are baseless and that Pilate wishes the whole thing could go away in the simple act of washing his hands of it all.
But it is never that easy.
Once you get involved in the political process, washing hands doesn’t always seem to get all the dirt off. Just ask Lady MacBeth.
When you leverage politics for ulterior motives and agendas it is never easy to make a clean break because politics never come “no strings attached.”
This is where things get sticky, especially for Christians. What is our place in the political process? There has been a lot of discussion about this in Churches of Christ over the years with answers ranging nearly across the full spectrum of possibilities. It is important that we put things in perspective. It is also important to realize this is a complicated subject that is going to require a lot of grace in how we interact with others on it. Maybe that is just as much a reason to discuss it as the importance as the issue itself – a practice in spiritual discipline and the art of having a Christ-like disagreement. Yet it is a a topic that we should discuss openly and discuss it well.
I do realize I just posted something on refraining from political conversation might just be the spiritual discipline we need so this may seem contradictory. On the flip side, it is equally true that there is just as much discipline in discussing a difficult and sensitive subject well as there is in refraining from discussing it in the first place. For me, at least, what I am talking about here is not a political party or a candidate specifically (although they can serve as specific examples of what we are talking about). I am talking about priorities and processes. That is a conversation worth having. Discussing how our faith impacts our views is a conversation worth having. Discussing our similarities and differences in love is an exercise worth practicing. More and more we need to compare our views to a kingdom perspective that is, from a scriptural perspective and see what it is about our views that needs to better line up with scripture. This will help us discern how much of our views are truly cultural vs purely biblical.
I look forward to discussing these things with you as we launch our July theme “A Kingdom not of this world.”