JESUS, GOVERNMENT, and the CHURCH

It seems to me that there’s never been a greater schism between Republicans and Democrats, Church and culture, and Jesus’ true character and personal preference and opinion. At least it seems this way if social media (Facebook, etc.) is any indication of how polarized we are as a nation, a culture, and the church.

I’ve purposefully not weighed in on the issues that are polarizing us as it only seems to serve to fuel the fires of further disagreement and perhaps even outright hatred and indignation. Now with the recent government shutdown, it seems our only resolve is to blame rather than find true resolution, whatever that may be. I do respect that, as Americans, we have the right to free speech and to state or post our opinions as we so choose. Yet I wonder IF it is our BEST CHOICE?? Especially those of us who profess faith in Christ and proclaim to follow him.

After all, in that respect, isn’t Jesus supposed to be our unquestionable example? It’s hard to argue with Jesus’ stance on politics, religious types, disciples, and the Church’s mission. At least if you honor his life and service as noted in the Bible. Therefore, I only offer the following as points of reference for us to consider if indeed we assert that we aspire to both share Jesus’ message and model his mission as Christians.

Jesus’ cause was not concerned with the dismantling or destruction of the existing Roman government!. Rather, Jesus understood and focused on what really mattered and the “government” that was truly sinister- Satan and the “gates of hell” (Mt. 16).  True followers of Christ are “given the keys” and the “authority” to “bind and loose”- all of which speak not of political wrangling, but of supernatural warfare, which matters most of all!

Jesus practiced prayer and fasting as his primary means of dealing with what was wrong with the world and encouraged his disciples to do the same!. How often do we see Jesus prioritizing prayer?  Why did he make it such a big deal?  Perhaps the answer is found best of all in one of his most tense and yet powerful moments- the “nevertheless” prayer prior to his arrest and crucifixion (Mt. 26:39).  To pray, “Not what I want, but what you want Father God” is always our best choice no matter what the case or situation.  Paul would later challenge the Church to not speak evil of as well as to pray for those in leadership, which certainly included the government (Acts 23:5; 1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Jesus’ and other New Testament leaders far more challenged the “Church” to behave correctly than they did the culture!. The Sermon on the Mount (Mt.5-7) really puts it all into perspective when it comes to what it is to “love your neighbor as yourself”, “to not judge unless you are judged likewise”, and to “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Jesus challenges us to aspire to represent the best of humanity, not the worse! As the Son of God Jesus was also the Son of Man and as such, practiced what he preached. Peter challenges us that the first place we should look to examine motive and truth is at ourselves, the Church; that “judgment begins first in our house…” (1 Pe. 4:17). Again, we are hard pressed to ignore these prescriptions for the best and most honorable way to live.

Jesus did not overlook sin yet his response to it in people’s lives was that of grace and mercy!. Jesus seemed to be far more gracious and merciful to those governed by worldly influences than those blinded to truth by religious bigotry and bias (Mt. 23). His expectations for those who were afforded the Word of God was significantly more than for those who were ignorant of it or had a distorted view. You are hard pressed to find Jesus confronting or condemning culture- it simply wasn’t necessary since “the Son of Man did not come to condemn the world but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:16-17).  After all, love governed Jesus and his “government” not politics or opinions, no matter how right they may seem to be (Isaiah 9:2-7).

I do not claim to have all the answers to the current state of affairs in our nation. A nation we all claim to love and a nation with ideals and values ideals many have given their lives for. However, as patriotic as we should be, more important;y as followers of Jesus we owe our allegiance to a higher calling and more honorable cause. And that is to conduct ourselves in the true character of Christ which can only happen when we also truly surrender and submit ourselves to him (Mt. 16:24).

I neither claim I’m fully devoted to Christ in all my ways nor do I assert that I my opinions or thoughts are always “captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). What I do know is that Jesus gives me the understanding and courage I need when he proclaimed, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

That does not tell me to be unconcerned nor non-engaged in the present state of affairs. It simply tells me a higher power is at work and has already determined the ultimate outcome!  That’s why perhaps the best form of “government” is to govern self and to respect others with love (1 Cor. 13).

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