Is the Bible, and thus Jesus, Political?

by | Feb 1, 2023 | RESILIENT PSYCHOLOGY AND THEOLOGY | 0 comments

Is the Bible, and thus Jesus, Political?
And if so, Why Does it Matter?

Lets begin with some definitions.

Theology: The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions.

Psychology: The science that deals with mental processes and behavior. It is the emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual, group, or activity.

Politics: From the Greek, politik, is the affairs of the cities; it is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.

The search for the answers to the above questions became a relevant one when I met with a team of eight people, early December last year, in my house to discuss an event that I was going to speak at. I had asked my local church, where I attend, if they would sponsor and support the event through in-person announcements, web and print promotions, and general overall goodwill.

That night at our meeting, which comprised robust and challenging conversation that I thoroughly support, a question was brought up about politics and if anything I was going to say was political. That of course got me thinking: Where is the line between what is and what isn’t political? Who decides that? Should the church be speaking of things that are political or remain neutral? Is the Bible, and thus Jesus, political? And if so, why does it matter?

It matters because those of us who hold the Bible as our foundational truth need to reconcile these questions. That set me on a quest. It really didn’t take long in perusing both the old testament and the new testament, and looking at the life of Jesus (who was definitely a revolutionist) to see that story after story, battle after battle, governments decreeing the killing of firstborns and all males under the age of two, affairs of the cities, kings, pharaohs and Jewish rulers; I found it was all seasoned with politics. Reverand Dr. Robert Wallace says it this way:

I have said many times that the gospel is deeply and unapologetically political, but it is never partisan. The cause of Christ is not beholden to one particular political ideology, nationality, fiscal policy, or president. The kingdom of God has only one king. To say Jesus is Lord, is to say that Caesar isn’t; to say that God is our Father, is to say that Caesar isn’t; and I think it worth remembering that either of those two simple political confessions brought a sentence of death to the early Christians. The gospel is deeply and unapologetically political, and it sometimes complicates our living. And it always has.

If you have been lucky enough in your life to isolate the message of the gospel from politics, then either you are coming from a place of isolation afforded by privilege, or you have too limited a definition of gospel. Because if you’ve ever prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth” you have prayed a deeply political prayer, whether you realize it or not. [1]

I too concur that the gospel is deeply and unapologetically political but how we operate in the collective political world as believers is individually up to us.

In the early church, 30-200 AD, Christians were in a surprisingly similar situation to us today. They too struggled for credibility and navigated pluralism. They were outnumbered and largely ignored, yet their churches spread across the Roman world. Today, we live in a post-Christian society with declining representation and, according to the Pew Research Center, the most persecuted people group on the planet.

The earliest Christians associated power and politics with Jesus and his suffering “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23) and “when I am weak, then I am strong”(2 Cor. 12:10). This humble, other-oriented life of servanthood and suffering in the early church kept them out of politics. However, their collective social response is exactly how the first Christians gained political influence.

Historians often argue that Christians became “cool” because Constantine (the first Christian emperor) converted or, more subtly, that Christians lobbied the elite and this led to Constantine’s conversion. [2]

Whether we like it or not, politics finds its way into our everyday lives and everyday conversations. We’re told two things we should never discuss in public is religion and politics. And yet, as Christians we are told to go into all the world and preach the good news of the unapologetic and political gospel.

I had the opportunity to see the gospel and politics sacredly integrated this past weekend when our three teenage grandkids from CA were here for a visit. We only see them two to three times a year so it’s important for us to be intentional about our influence. What values, mores, and principles do we want to pass on?

After thoughtful prayer, I asked their Mom if we could have home church on Sunday morning before they left, as I had an engaging interview (on a very political topic) that I wanted to share. We wanted to connect in a relevant way with them and then weave in what we believe about Jesus, Satan, truth and lies.

After all cell phones went on mute and were tossed into a basket, we settled in front of the fire for a cozy interview with a Mom, who is also a mental health counselor, and parent of a 13 yr. old daughter. She shared that the school where her daughter attended was secretly and actively “transitioning” her daughter to believe she would be better off as a male than as a female.

I was pretty sure my grandkids were surrounded by this in their CA schools and probably also viewing a lot of transgender videos on Tik Tok so I knew it was relevant. After the interview, we segued into a discussion: Does anyone know what ideology means? Ethics? Binary? Where does truth come from? Who is the Father of Lies? And so on.

We had an enlightening conversation and by the end, something I had said had me, and them, tearing up and exchanging bear hugs. Who says we can’t talk gospel and politics, speaking the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15)

______________________________________

  1. https://christiancitizen.us/lets-talk-politics/
  2. https://relevantmagazine.com/current/why-the-early-church-wasnt-interested-in-political-power/

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