My first post, “Politics and Jesus,” opened with a brief observation about how we use labels to embrace or dismiss others. I want to offer a few concluding thoughts in this post that build on that observation.
First, I would note that the church is inherently political. We are a kingdom people. But being a kingdom people means that we commit ourselves to the ways – the politics – of the kingdom of God. As Christians who proclaim that Jesus is Lord, we find that we are citizens of His Kingdom.
When early Christians proclaimed that Jesus is Lord, it was an intentional variation of a phrase that was commonly heard at the time: “Caesar is Lord.” To proclaim that Jesus is Lord implies, quite directly, that Caesar is not.
We are a people with a different politic, because we are a people of a different kingdom. Our citizenship is bound to a Kingdom, not to a nation. And similarly, the church of Jesus is not a national church, it is a kingdom body.
I was recently asked how I navigate through the political divisiveness of our nation as a leader in the church. The first thing I do is remember (and teach) that we are kingdom citizens. We are aliens and exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11 – but certainly, if you look it up, start with verse 1), living in a kingdom that powerfully here and now, but is (at times painfully, and at other times hope-fully) not yet.
The church does not have time to argue matters of left, right or center. We have no time for worldly political division. We certainly don’t have time for divisive labels, propaganda, in-fighting, or boundary-building. We are a people with a mission – and that mission is kingdom-focused. It is a mission to love and serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46, the practice of kingdom values, priorities, and justice) and a mission to “go and make disciples of the nations” (Matthew 28:19-20, the practice of participating with Christ in the transformation of lives, that others may enter into participation in His kingdom!).
Endorsing candidates, arguing policies from a partisan perspective, fighting cultural wars, participating in an “us vs. them” narrative, etc., only distracts the church from its mission. And the church suffers. And the world suffers. And the lives of people around us who are in desperate need of Jesus suffer.
We, as individuals, suffer as well. Because our current political system is designed in such a way that we need not take ownership for our own shortcomings or sin; rather, we simply blame the “other side” for the failings of our culture or government.
But we, as Christians, are taught instead to repent of our sin. To seek reconciliation. To focus our eyes on justice for the ones Jesus called “the least of these,” and to put ourselves aside for the well-being of others as we seek to pursue the ways and order of the kingdom of God.
In the first post, I suggested that instead of looking to the left or right for answers, we need to learn to look “up” – how does the order earth need to take on the order of heaven? This, after all, is the prayer of Jesus, who prayed “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Is the church political? Absolutely. But we are a church that serves the politics of the Kingdom of God, and we worship only our King.