How to Change our World for Jesus - The Lure of Politics

When I first started this blog in 2004, I wrote a few articles on Christian Exodus, an organization that plans "to accelerate the return to self-government based upon Biblical principles" by planned resettlement in South Carolina.  The idea is that if enough Christians moved to the same place, they can create a synergy that will transform their local governments, which will then transform the state into a theocracy, a government that recognizes God as its ruler.  I thought they might have fizzled out by now, but they appear to still be going strong.   

Here are some of the posts for background on this subject:
More on Christian Exodus - The Dilemmas Raised in Attempting to be a Christian Nation or State
The Difference Between a Nation of Christians and a Christian Nation
Creating a Jesus State - On Christian Exodus

What we see in Christian Exodus is just a more overt expression of the platitudes and attempts of many of the Christian political organizations fighting the political battle in America.  This approach is nothing new.  It is just a rehashing of the concept that has crept into the church throughout the years.  As Christians, we desire our nation to be one focused on God, but this desire can be expressed differently.  For some, it means that they will enter the political fray and attempt to transform the political structure from one that is out of tune with God to one that takes its marching orders from God.  From the Christianization of Rome by Constatine to Calvin's Geneva to Uganda today, we see that the religious people, when trying to make a state based upon the headship of God, have a tendency to begin killing people who disagree with them.
The fallacy of this approach is that the life of Christ cannot be passed on to others by the powers of the State.  We might create moral people through the threat of the gun, fines, and imprisonment, but moral people are meaningless without hearts surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus.  I pray that we will never resort to executing non-believers like Constantine and Calvin were willing to do, like the people of Uganda are almost ready to do once again.

If we want to have an eternal impact on our world, we need to focus on being the people that God wants us to be rather than obsess with transforming our nation.  It's easy for us to point fingers at others and tell them that they need to change while we ignore the most important calling on our life that we have control over.  Our nation would benefit more from Christians examining their our own lives, drawing closer to Jesus, and following our intimacy with God with the sacrificial living that will inspire.  We need to spend our time figuring out ways to make Christ's love real to the world around us through the overflowing of the love we have for one another in our local church.  It starts with us truly loving one another, not just with words but with real, meaningful actions.  That love will produce the result we desire instead of the hatred that ensues from Christians entering the political fray "for Christ," creating morality laws, and coercing others to live like they are Christians.   

We still have the concern of how to stand up for justice and the things God cares for in our society.  Don't confuse this approach as saying that we need to stop being concerned about the things that Jesus is concerned with.  The answer to justice does not lie in the state but in Jesus, who has a body here on earth that is supposed to bring about His will.

In a conversation years ago with John Nugent, professor at Great Lakes Christian College, he wrote to me concerning the writings of John Howard Yoder.  His thoughts are very appropriate on an election day like today. 

"What follows is simply a summary of John Howard Yoder’s article “Original Revolution” published in a book that bears that title.) The Sadducees represent one strategy. They got in with the Roman power brokers located in Jerusalem and through strategic alliance with them sought to carve space for Jews in Palestine on Rome’s terms. Then there are the Pharisees who gave up on political leverage. Instead they created Judaism to be something mostly concerned with individual piety. Regardless of who is in charge, if everyone just focuses on personal piety, they will be right with God and will share in the resurrection. Then there were the Zealots. They would not tolerate Roman occupation of “their land” without a fight. So they employed violence, subterfuge, and revolt in order to topple the enemy. These three strategies are employed in various ways by various groups and religions in America today. I leave it to you to connect the dots. But a fourth strategy seems most analogous to the Exodus movement. These are the Essenes or Dead Sea community. Their strategy was to quarantine themselves off from the contamination of wider society, to do things right on a strictly in-house basis, and to patiently await God’s call to take the next step whatever it may be."
Significantly, Jesus rejected all of these strategies. If either of them were basically right, it seems that Jesus would have allied with them and taken control of their already gathered ranks. Instead he begins a movement that is genuinely new and draws adherents from various of these camps. His strategy was to form a people who would exist among the people but would not live according to their ways. Instead they would order their life together to bear witness to God’s kingdom. His strategy should not, however, be confused with the Pharisees. Jesus did not ask them to focus primarily on their individual spiritual lives. He gathered them into a people whose corporate life together was a large part of their witness (e.g., light of the world, city on a hill, salt of the earth, etc). It was crucial that they be a visible-political body, ordered according to the politics of God’s kingdom, and it was crucial that this people would exist in and among the other peoples of the world—not off in relative isolation as with the Essenes. If the Essene strategy was right, all Jesus would have had to do was join them and tweak their teaching to align with God’s kingdom. Interestingly, however, John the Baptist seems to have left this group to be used by God to prepare the way for Jesus among the people of Palestine. Anyway, you know how the story goes. Jesus gathers this people, dies, rises, re-gathers them, and commissions them to await the HS who would empower them and send them out on their worldwide mission. The HS comes and Jesus’ followers decide to huddle in Jerusalem (re-Babel-ification). Then the HS sends persecutions that scatter the Jerusalem Christians out into worldwide mission to people of all ethnic groups. But this dispersion, according to the letters of the NT, had to take a certain kind of shape. In keeping with Jesus’ vision, they were to form messianic communities ordered according to God’s kingdom and located among the nations as a witness to them. Their status was that of aliens, strangers, exiles, and ambassadors. They were resident aliens—residing among the people but of alien citizenship. A great online article that highlights these themes in 1 Peter can be found here."

So we really have the option of being five types of people.

1. People trying to change the political structure for God.
2. People focused only on individual spirituality.
3. People focused on removing the "sinners" from their land by force.
4. People focused on isolating ourselves from the world.
5. People who live together in such a way that their life together is a witness to the world.

I can see the possibility of Groups 1, 2, and 5 working together. Then I am reminded that the blunt end of Jesus' criticism landed on groups 1 and 2, the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Now, if you're new to my beliefs on individual spirituality, let me have a little go at explaining them. The main verse we hear on a "personal relationship" with Christ is John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Jesus requests in that same prayer that we are to "be one" three times (John 17:11, 17:21-22). God wants his people to be one. As Ephesians 4:4-7 states: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift."

A brief summary of my stance is this. It is important for each individual to make a commitment to follow Christ - that is the entry into the Kingdom; however, that commitment does not lead them into personal spiritual ecstasy land. That individual commitment leads them to the body of Christ. Romans 12:5 says, "We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." When you become a Christian, you begin to share your life with others.

It is tough to believe in the importance of being a collective group in a society that worships the individual. But we need to be careful. When our beliefs parallel that which the pagan culture around us strongly adheres to to, we need to make sure that we carefully scrutinize those beliefs.
As followers of Jesus, we are tempted with all sorts of methods that will distract us from our true mission to be in love with Jesus as a body and live lives together that will reflect His glory.  Anything else than total surrender is easier, and that is why they are appealing.  But we must remember that Jesus' burden is light.