In Russell Moore’s recent interview on C-SPAN, a caller made this statement:
I really wish Christians would not have anything to do publically with politics…You’ve got to ask yourself: What would Jesus have done? Jesus wouldn’t have had a thing to do with politics.
This caller is not alone in his disdain for politics. Scores of Christians believe that Jesus was about saving souls, not addressing politics. They believe that Jesus cared about spiritual matters, not earthly ones. Perhaps you hold this opinion, too.
Is this perspective correct? When it comes to politics, what would Jesus really do?
Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo tackle this issue head-on in their new book One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics. And they conclude that Jesus had much to do with politics:
From the moment he began his ministry until he was taken up to heaven, Jesus was launching a kingdom God had long ago promised, a kingdom that is deeply and inescapably political. (emphasis added)
Jesus’ life and message were deeply and inescapably political.
As a result, when Jesus claimed that his kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36), he wasn’t saying that he cared only about spiritual matters. Instead, he was affirming that his kingdom was full of true justice and peace. Ashford and Pappalardo write,
His kingdom is otherworldly, not by being incorporeal but by being divine and righteous. And it is this-worldly in that it breaks into this world’s order.
And remember when Jesus said to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17)? Jesus wasn’t limiting God’s rule; he was limiting Caesar’s. Ashford and Pappalardo write,
This does not mean, as is often cursorily assumed, that the government rules our physical lives while God rules the spiritual one. It is actually a striking political statement limiting Caesar’s role and his reign. ‘Look at this coin,’ Jesus says. ‘It’s got Caesar’s face on it. Fine, he can have it. Give him your money. But never give him your ultimate allegiance. That belongs to God alone.’
Now Jesus’ life and ministry weren’t exclusively political. His primary mission wasn’t to win an election or overthrow the Roman empire. But Jesus’ life and message were deeply and inescapably political.
And if Jesus cared about politics, perhaps we should, too.
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