I’ve never really been too into politics. I can remember my first introduction as an elementary student and all of us 4th graders trying to figure out if Dukakis or Bush was the better candidate (The eyebrows made it obvious). And throughout the years I was always curious and would usually form an opinion, but it was rarely something that kept me up at night. It seems like more and more these days, especially with the advent of social media and 24/7 news coverage, that the political landscape has come to dominate culture. Everyone has to have a side and depending on where you land your opinion and your worth is validated by those around you or you are completely written off. Our nation has become a nation divided and the same spirit of the age of politics has even begun to infiltrate the church and it’s becoming bit worrisome.
I guess the reason it disturbs me so much is that this is not supposed to be the way in which the church transforms the world. We were never meant to grab hold of the reigns of kingdom and political power and yet for many it seems that this is our only recourse. How do I know this is not our way? As his ministry began Jesus was carried off into the wilderness by the Spirit and for forty days was tempted. Matthew’s gospel records the temptations in a certain order and the last temptation Jesus faces should give us some insight into this dilemma. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” – Matthew 4:8-10. Jesus was offered all the political power in the world. He was offered all the kingdoms and glory and prestige that comes from earthly rule and all he had to do was compromise his mission. All he had to do was for a moment set aside his true mission of worshiping and serving God and all that power would be His. But that wasn’t God’s way.
Jesus came to show us what it meant to live a life that fully honors God. And even at the beginning of His ministry he was offered the opportunity to seize earthly power and political sway in order to accomplish that mission. But he knew bowing down to the Ruler of this world would destroy His Divine purpose of showing us what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. I wonder if we as a church have sometimes lost our way in an attempt to grab onto this earthly power. Sure, we want to influence culture and see God’s way become the one true way…but at what cost? Have we compromised the mission of God because we thought we could accomplish His mission through other methods. Sometimes we have allowed allegiances to political systems to tarnish the mission of God and our witness to others and this should never be so. The apostle Paul said this, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12.
Before you write this off completely hear one last thing. I am not saying to not be political. But just be careful that when you are working within the systems of this world that you don’t forget your citizenship is in Heaven and your allegiance is to a God whose Kingdom goes beyond what we see. And in this way you can still be political and remember we are solely called to worship and serve.