Power, Politics, and the Kingdom

By Jim Tune

There seems to be a set of unwritten rules and preferences concerning which political party one must belong to in order to be considered a Christian of good standing among many Evangelicals. I have heard such things as, “I am sorry, but I really have to question your faith if you’re a Democrat.” Of course, the left can serve up remarkably similar disdain by inferring that no real thinking person could possibly vote Republican. Both sides claim to cherish freedom, democracy, and the American way.

JT DEC10_JNPolitical differences are so polarizing that they can readily turn friends and family into foes. We excuse hateful behavior toward brothers and sisters who disagree with us on the basis of political convictions. How is it that Jesus and his band of disciples were able to form such strong bonds of communion in the tempestuous political climate of the first century? As people with a spiritual heritage that traditionally valued Christian unity, how is it we are so quick to label non-Evangelicals as “liberals” with dubious Christian credentials?

Maybe we could keep in mind that democracy, as good a system as it may be, is one created by the people, for the people. But it’s not the kingdom of Christ. And that is what we must remember. Even when we exercise our privilege to vote, it is good to remain mindful of this simple truth: while democracy comes by the ballot box, the kingdom of Christ comes only by a crucified and cross-shaped heart.

Remember when James and John requested to sit on Jesus’ right and left in his glory? They were seeking positions of conventional power based upon a political messianic vision. In other words, when King Jesus displaced Caesar as emperor, James and John wanted to be in Christ’s cabinet—like secretary of state or secretary of the treasury. But Christ’s kingdom is nothing like the kingdoms of the world. Jesus would become king, but he would be nothing like Caesar.

Jesus was not trying to give the world the best version of Caesar’s kingdom; he was giving the world the kingdom of God. Stanley Hauerwas states that through Christ’s death on the cross—a death of substitution and sacrifice—“We are made members of a kingdom governed by a politics of forgiveness and redemption. The world is offered an alternative unimaginable by our sin-determined fantasies.”

Jesus’ government will never be found at the Capitol or the White House. Jesus’ government does not come via super PACS, elections, lobbies, leftists or rightists. There are no Christian nations or Christian parties or Christian institutions. The only institution that can truly be Christian is one that is actually and ideally Christlike.

Could it really be that your candidate winning or losing has very little to do with the kingdom of God or the politics of Jesus? Do we truly believe our worldly power systems can save us? Are we really even capable of preaching the gospel if every four years we behave like rabid animals, ready to pounce on perceived political enemies?

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1 Comment

  1. Matt Shears
    January 2, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Amen! I’m a big fan of Stanley Hauerwas and appreciated seeing him quoted here in the Christian Standard. He has a lot of wisdom about politics and war that contemporary American Christians need to hear.

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