“Love is the only aspiration big enough for the immensity of human community and challenge in the 21st Century.” ~ Krista Tippett
When I look at the way we do politics in the U.S., and in particular the way my fellow Christians and I engage with it, I can’t help but wonder what Jesus thinks about it all. I wonder how each of our words and actions in the political arena affect him. If he were given the stage at one of our televised debates, I wonder what he would say to his followers about this current election, about the candidates, and about the way we’re all handling it.
That is, if he’d say anything at all. I mean, Jesus’ life in the flesh happened under the tyranny of Roman rule. Israel was an occupied nation, and it would be ludicrous to think that Jesus didn’t witness blatant acts of injustice against his countrymen on a regular basis. He most certainly experienced oppression himself. It was the Roman overlords, after all, who ultimately killed him.
Despite all this, in the years of his public life, Jesus seemed to go out of his way to avoid talking about his Roman oppressors. His message was stubbornly non-political. In some ways, this must have seemed ridiculous to a lot of people living back then, or at the very least naïve. How could you speak out in favor of the Kingdom of God, and not speak out against the Kingdom of Rome? Yet when people spoke of their disdain for Roman oppression, Jesus spoke of loving your enemies (Matthew 5:38-48). When the religious leaders of the day tried to make Jesus take sides in the political debate, he rebuked them and refused to be pinned down (Matthew 22:15-22).
Maybe he thought getting into politics would only cloud and confuse his primary mission. Or maybe he saw that the message of hope he had come to share was for the Romans too.
And for Trump. And Hillary. And Sanders. And Cruz. And all the people in all the bunkered pockets of our society lobbing grenades of fear and judgment at one another, each terrified the other may gain actual power later this year, and lead our country into ruin.
There’s not a single soul among them that Jesus didn’t die for, or that God doesn’t love.
So what’s a Christ follower supposed to do with that?
Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe we Christians should avoid talking about politics altogether. Maybe we should voice our stance on the issues, but steer clear of speaking ill of those who don’t agree with us. Maybe we should be bold advocates for civil discourse, and act as mediators between siloed political factions who struggle to find any way to reach across the aisle. Maybe instead of watching debates or sparking them on Facebook, we should fall to our knees and pray long and hard for our nation, and all the people in it.
Whatever we do the rest of this year, I think we need to be thoughtful about it. Not reactive, but intentional. As for me, there are a few foundational principles of my Christian faith I am committing to follow throughout the rest of this election cycle. I share them in the hope they’ll be an encouragement for you as well:
- I am a Christ follower first, and an American second. I am a citizen of two Kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the nation of the United States. I love both, but my first loyalty is to God’s Kingdom, to his law of love and his gospel of grace. I will not hate in the name of Jesus, nor let fear or judgment override God’s command to love all those God came to save, even those with whom I deeply disagree.
- Hate, Fear, and Judgment are not the way of Christ. Regardless of my political opinions, I will be wary of any leader who uses hatred and fear of others to promote his or her agenda, and I will not submit to the belief that I must fear or pass judgment on my fellow human beings in order to disagree with them.
- Love is the only hope for the future of humanity. Love is the pervasive and unavoidable disposition of the gospel. “Love God. Love People.” Jesus tells us this is the only way to create the kind of world that truly honors God, and identifies us as his followers (Luke 10:25-37). This love isn’t somewhere “out there” in a church or a political movement. It’s right here, inside me, and inside you. It’s in my choice today of how I will think about “those people” I do not agree with, how I will write about them in the public forums of the web, and how I will speak about them with my family and friends.
As a Christian, I don’t have to agree with any public policy or political stance that doesn’t align with my convictions. But I do have to love those whose convictions are different than mine, and recognize that they too are masterpieces of Divine design for whom Christ died. I cannot on the one hand call myself a follower of Christ, while on the other I hate and judge those he came to love.
What about you? How are you navigating the tension between your faith and politics this year?