The Politics of Jesus
Inauguration Day is coming up. The Presidential Inauguration signifies a new era in the future of Americans. For some it’s an exciting hope filled time. For others a time of angst. Whenever a new President is elected there is insecurity in what the future may hold. We see fluctuations in the stock market and increased trepidation in the media. I think democrats and republicans can agree on one thing, it has been an exceptionally controversial year.
Society as a whole seems to be in a complete panic. Millennial’s are being criticized for those who have made a public display of despair. The violence on police officers has adversely effected the number of men and woman going into careers in law enforcement, making enforcing laws twice as challenging. Some of the biggest concerns in society right now are beliefs around disparities between race, economics, and culture. Republicans blame the democrats and democrats blame the republicans. With so much controversy how do we keep calm and avoid getting caught up in the panic?
The short answer: Don’t panic.
Easy for me to say right? I want to remind you of another time when political upheaval was prominent and society was divided…
Jesus lived in a controversial time period as well. He was a Palestinian Jew. He grew up during a time of Roman occupation in Israel. The Roman occupation was yet another ruling class in a long line of occupiers governing the Jewish people at that time. Jesus and the Jewish peoples would have grown up around the belief that a Messiah was coming to set the people free of their long time oppression.
Some of the people tired of being oppressed took matters into their own hands and became Zealots. Instead of waiting for the Messiah that they had been taught about, they rebelled and used violence to fight their oppressors. There also were the Sadducees, they were the wealthy aristocrats of the time. They didn’t believe violence would benefit them. They believed the best way to protect their wealth was by compromising with Rome. The Pharisees didn’t agree with compromise or violence. They were spiritually legalistic. They believed in the law of the Torah. Finally there were the Essenes, they were sort of like those off the grid folk. They separated themselves from society. They chose to live a life free from the influences of the surrounding political and social views. (The World of Jesus’ Time, Gerald Hall)
Jesus didn’t fit any of these classes. He involved himself with people. He didn’t disconnect from society, he participated in meaningful events and was influential. He didn’t promote violence or approve of it. He often spoke to people who others considered unworthy or inappropriate. When it came to politics he was not concerned with wealth or class divisions. Romans 13:7 says Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor then honor.
When my son was in elementary school he had a teacher who would often remove him from the rest of the class and place him at the same table as another group of boys who would all disrupt the class together. After having met with her a few times over his behavior I asked her why she continued to place the boys together. She replied that the other kids in the class wanted to work and learn, and so she sat them together to set them up for success. I understood completely. I asked, “So what are you setting these boys up for?”
1 Timothy 2:1-2 reads, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for the kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” This means whether you like the new President or not, as a Christian you are supposed to be praying for him and all who are in authority. By lifting them up in prayer we are not only setting them up for success but we are setting up our country for success and by extension we are setting ourselves up for success. If my sons teacher had made an attempt to set the boys up for success, her class room may have been a more peaceful environment for her to teach and the children to learn. Now she couldn’t change how the boys acted but she could change the environment in which they acted. As we continue to pray for discernment for our leaders we not only set them up for success but we are following the example of Christ. We should be involved in a way that is influential, non-violent, follows spiritual and government laws while being humble enough to respect one another and care for one another. When I think of activism, some of the most influential were men like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. Being influential and an advocate for those who need someone to stand up for them is important. Finding ways to bring issues to the forefront of society while being respectful of those with opposing viewpoints will gain more support than angry protests and violence.
After all didn’t our mothers always say you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar?