I used to be a rabid political guy. I once believed we could change the culture with the right political leaders. I was right to have the dream but wrong about the method. Even if I could get my “dream team” elected we would still have a problem in our culture.
Politics and law don’t change that inconvenient truth (apologies to Al Gore) that we have an inherent human heart problem. Jesus gave us a perfect example of what it looks like to be a good citizen while recognizing what really changes the heart of man. The religious legalists (the Pharisees) were trying to trick Jesus to get Him in trouble with the Roman government. Nice try.
“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
Tim Keller brilliantly identifies what happens when we make politics an ultimate thing.
If you center your life and identity on a “noble cause,” you will divide the world into “good” and “bad” and demonize your opponents. Ironically, you will be controlled by your enemies. Without them, you have no purpose.
We have taken demonizing to an art form in this current climate and both sides of the aisle believe they have a noble cause. We have seen the devastation to our country when we demonize our opponents. We must not fall into that trap as representatives of Jesus. Love those who oppose you and show them that grace is a bipartisan gift from God.
Paul wrote to a church in Rome that certainly had to deal with some political issues.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1, NLT)
That can be a hard one for believers right, left, and center to stomach at times. But I didn’t write those words in Scripture that remind me that God is in control and I am not.
Jesus and Paul spent no energy on trying to clean up the Roman empire, despite their terrible practices of abandoning infants, pederasty, and gladiator games. Indeed, the people Jesus denounced most harshly, the Pharisees, were some of the most moral people on earth. He did not give us the challenge of imposing our morality on others, but rather of spreading a far more radical message: that God loves sinners. Politics is based on power, and power always causes divisions. It is very difficulty indeed to get across a message of love and power at the same time. One of them always loses out, and we are called to emphasize love.
I agree. Jesus spent zero time trying to change the political culture. He spent all of His time changing hearts. The real power to change our broken world comes from the finished work of Jesus and the transformational power of the Gospel.