Jesus and Your Political Party
Jesus didn’t (and doesn’t) fit neatly into any political party. His kingdom is “not of this world.” Therefore, we should expect the values and priorities of that “alien kingdom” both to transect and to transcend the political categories of the world. Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. OK. But, practically speaking, what does this really mean for followers of Jesus? Here are some leftover crumbs from yesterday’s sermon on Matthew 22:15-22:
1. Christians are free to affiliate with a variety of political parties. Which is not to say that every Christian will feel free, based on individual conscience, to affiliate with every party.
2. We must not “bind the conscience” of others with respect to party affiliation, communicating explicitly or (perhaps especially) implicitly that a follower of Christ cannot be a Republican or a Democrat. The reverse is also important: Never question the authenticity of someone’s faith based upon their votes or political affiliation alone.
3. Christians should regularly experience discomfort within their own parties: how the issues are defined and what issues are (and aren’t) tackled. You should never feel perfectly “at home.”
4. If you’ve never affirmed or agreed with someone of a different political persuasion, you’re probably following your party more than you are following Jesus. Go do it. Make a list. Seriously.
5. Christians should be more critical of their own party than their own political tribespeople, and more charitable of the opposing party (annoyingly so) than their own political tribespeople. Indeed, Christians’ self-criticism of party should occasionally exceed even that of their political opponents.
6. Christians should occasionally make members of their own party mad. If you’ve never irked someone from your own political tribe for disagreeing with the party line, you’re probably following party more than you are Jesus. You cannot seek the alien kingdom and be a political people-pleaser.
7. If your faith has never caused you to move or shift politically upon becoming a Christian or maturing as a Christian, you’re probably following your party more than you are Jesus. Following him will make some more politically tempered, others more politically radical, and all more politically counter-intuitive.
8. Christians should be wary of yes/no and either/or political dichotomies or overly simplistic formulations of issues and solutions. Seek first the alien kingdom. This means it will require a lot of diligence and discernment for a Christian to sort through the issues rather than simply parrot a party’s perspective. Laziness guarantees worldliness.
9. Christians should not easily assign God’s will or authority to a specific law or regulation, much less an elected official. Public policy can be an expression of kingdom values, but the two are not equivalent. For example, God mandates us to show special concern for the poor (e.g., Deut. 15:7-8; Matt. 25:31-46; Jas. 1:27); he does not, however, tell us precisely how much this concern must be facilitated through the institution of government, a determination that must be made by inference and the sound exercise of wisdom.
10. While every political tribe has its catchphrases and talking points, and the world of politics has its “lingua franca,” a Christian should strive to articulate social and political issues with biblical language and categories as much as possible. This takes effort. It is a matter of biblical discipleship. Churches, get to work.
11. Christians should be the first to find friends among members of the opposing party. Christians should never be insulated from members (especially Christian members) of the opposing party.
12. Christians should be motivated to build bridges across the aisle, whether vocationally or socially — not simply for reasons of civility or productivity, but based upon the conviction that the opposition party is the depository of “leftover pieces” of Jesus’ “platform” that evidently didn’t fit into your own party’s policy puzzle.
13. Local churches, which are to be a reflection and embodiment of the kingdom, ought to be politically diverse and, more importantly, politically inclusive. This takes intentionality and care.
14. As a matter of respect, humility, and mutual exchange (learning), Christians should strive to learn to articulate the views of those outside their political circles using language that their neighbor would accept as a fair representation of their perspective.
15. Because no party is a perfect embodiment of the alien kingdom, “winning” cannot be everything; it must not be the ultimate goal. Which reminds us: Character never, ever doesn’t matter in party politics (Matt. 5:3-12; Gal. 5:22-23; Tit. 3:1-2).