There’s an election on!
Or at least there will be come May 7th. And as was to be expected I suppose there’s been all manner of hype and insufferable tweeting regarding who’ll win, who won’t, who we should vote for and who we shouldn’t. For political nuts like me it’s easy to be swept up in election fever, and even if you’re not particularly into politics you may too be looking forward to seeing the swingometer swinging with abandon and the results coming in overnight. I know I am!
Christians too will of course not be immune from all this coverage, and I’m confident some fellow believers may even tell us who we should be voting for, what policy issues we should care about and so on. As such, Christians should remember this simple but important fact:
Jesus’ agenda isn’t political; it’s so much bigger!
This is a glorious and exciting truth whatever your level of interest and views regarding politics, and in what follows I hope to explain why.
Involved without losing perspective
Firstly, let me say that it isn’t wrong to be interested in politics, nor that Government (of whatever hue) is inherently bad and to be avoided. The apostle Paul says that Government has been instituted by God (Romans 13:1) and that we should pray for our political leaders -‘that we should live a quiet and peaceful lives’ (1 Timothy 2:2). These scriptures therefore encourage a certain degree of engagement in the political process; even it is just paying taxes, obeying government and praying for our leaders.
Some will, in tune with their individual gifts feel particularly motivated to get more involved in the political process. This is a good thing. We need a gospel witness in the social, cultural and political sphere as much as (but not more than) in the accountancy office, factory, school etc.
Yet we need to realise that no amount of political and policy intervention will deal with humanity’s biggest problem – sin, which has ever present in the world since the fall (Genesis 3). Jesus said as much when he said that from the human heart come all manner of evil (Mark 7:21-22). Indeed, the problems we see in the world today can be directly attributable to sin, whether indirectly through the broken world we live as a consequence of the fall, or via direct human action.
The only solution to this fatal problem is the gospel (which can be summed up as ‘Jesus is Lord’, click on the link for more details). Faith in the Lordship of Christ and not politics will ultimately save us from the judgement our sin deserves. Indeed, the reason Jesus came to dwell on earth was not to achieve political revolution, eradicate poverty or overthrow the leaders of the day, but to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). We would do well to remember this as we go to the polls on May 7th.
Living out the gospel
Ah, but what about when Jesus talked about proclaiming good news to the poor? Surely that shows that Jesus was concerned about tackling poverty and eradicating injustice right? Whilst I don’t think Jesus would have been immune to the plight of the poor, or not cared about injustice, I believe this passage where Jesus talks about ‘proclaiming good news to the poor’ helps reiterate Jesus core mission, to call sinners to repentance.
The fact Jesus used the word proclaiming tells us that his primary concern was to tell us something life changing, the gospel. In addition, whilst the ‘poor’ in this content certainly includes the materially poor, the Greek word concerned can also mean figurative poverty (that is, spiritual poverty.) Thirdly, Jesus acted in various ways to change people’s physical circumstances (in performing miracles for example) so that people would see that he was the one to come (Luke 7:21-23), no one less than the Messiah, Saviour of the World and Son of God.
All of this makes sense of what Jesus says in Luke 5:23-24 and 32
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins — he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home” (my emphasis).
And in v. 32: ‘I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
An eternal focus
Very well you might say, politicians can’t deal with this fundamental problem, and Jesus might have primarily come not to bring about political revolution but aren’t we called to live out the gospel through changing our communities, cities and nations? Shouldn’t we use this amazing hope we now have to deal with the plethora of problems we see in the world? Surely the love of Christ in us motivates us to such action?
These are all very good questions. As said already, some of us will be called to be involved in such things, and even if we’re not, I think having concern for the problems in our world is by no means a bad thing; we are called to be stewards of the earth after all (Genesis 1:28). In addition, God clearly commends justice and fairness (Deuteronomy 15:11, 24:21-22, Galatians 6:10.) Yet in acknowledging this, we need to be aware of three things.
- Jesus (and indeed the Bible’s focus) is not primarily on this world but on the one to come (see for example Genesis 22 and 2 Corinthians 4:18). Christians are told to live their lives in light of eternity (Romans 8:23), set their minds on ‘the things that are above (Colossians 3:2-4), lose our lives for the sake of the gospel in order to gain life later (Mark 8:35) and invest in treasure that will never perish (Matthew 6:19-21.)
- As such, scripture promises a time when the ills blighting humanity and our universe will be no more (Romans 8:21, Revelation 21:4) and where we’ll be in perfect relationship with him (Revelation 22:1-5). Thus, whilst political and social interventions can and do (by the grace of God) alleviate some of the pain, injustice and evil we see in our world, the thing we truly long for (a permanent end to all imperfection) can, and will be solely achieved by God alone bringing in a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-24). It is vital we see all our political and social ‘good endeavours’ in this light.
- As a result, our primary concern should essentially revolve around the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) – reaching out to others sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and making disciples helping believers become more like Christ. This process, sanctification, is a major focus of the apostolic letters of the New Testament (see for example, Romans 6:13-18, Colossians 2:6-7, 3:12-17, 1 Peter 1:13-15.)
In summary, it is my hope that we’d see the upcoming General Election as an opportunity to remember:
- God cares about Government; he instituted it and expects us to obey it.
- That it is good for Christians to be concerned about various local, regional, national and international injustices for God cares about injustice and unfairness
- The greatest problem facing the World today is our own sin, something which can only be remedied through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- As such, Jesus primary concern during his time on earth was proclaiming and embodying his lordship, and thus, calling sinners to repentance.
- Our primary concern should be making disciples of Jesus Christ and pursuing Godliness in light of eternity.
- Whilst political and social interventions can have positive impacts of alleviating social and political problems, the new creation, which will exclusively be brought about by God (and not us) will be the only place where sin, evil, pain and injustice will be no more.