I am surprised sometimes at how soon and fast people line up Jesus on their side. Especially, it seems so to me, on the “progressive,” liberal side. Maybe not so much on the conservative side, since I often hear from those folks, “I am not Jesus.” So that there is a sort of disconnect somewhere from Jesus and his example and what one should do, or what society should do. Actually for some conservatives at least, it seems, they would not at all be saying that the way they go is something God puts up with, but perhaps more like the way it has to be in a fallen world. And I can track with them to some extent, because there is indeed a true justice at work in nation states, in the way these conservatives think, however imperfect it inevitably is.
The kingdom Jesus brings is not from this world, but it is for this world. It is distinct in that it is found only in Jesus, “in Christ,” in that dynamic which is of the Spirit and is both personal and communal, seen and played out (we can say, worked out) in the church. The church by virtue of its faithful existence in this world lives out dimensions of the kingdom which are essential, such as the redemption realized in Jesus Christ, to be seen in restoration and reconciliation in significant measure. And a large part of the church being the church is to be engaged in good works in the community. Particularly for the poor and oppressed.
I have at least one friend, himself quite learned and devout, who believes Christians should never line up with either party, or with any political ideology of this world, that by doing so they are serving something other than Christ, not living in God’s kingdom come in him. He may be right. I can see the other side. Christians may serve in a political party, perhaps even as a politician, while trying to live out their calling in Christ in God’s kingdom present in him. They could hold to a number of theological views, but essentially might see government having its place in a certain sense. I would think that we would all hope that somehow God’s kingdom come in Christ might have some influence for good in the world- even on nation-states, I would say both in an indirect and direct sense, essentially through the church. I think we have to be awfully careful in Christianizing any entity of this world; I don’t think it can be done. The only Christian entity, strictly speaking, is the church, Christ’s body on earth.
If Jesus were here today, I think both his practice and message would be unsettling to us all. We would see that it is according to scripture, even if it is not as easy as one, two, three. But he would challenge, even to the core, the devotion some of us have to our political views. Maybe not so much to change them as to put them more in their proper place. So that God’s grace and kingdom come in him might be more in its proper place. How that is worked out may well differ and vary from different Christians and churches. And none of us will ever have “the answer,” and have it down pat. What we must do and be about is nothing less than “our Father’s business,” a calling in Christ that is not from this world, but indeed for it. Always in terms of God’s kingdom come in him. Blessed to be a blessing, no less, together in and through Jesus.