Apolitical Jesus

Denise M. Kohlmeyer

I'm going to go out on a limb here (and it just might break ☺), but I don't see anywhere in Scripture where Jesus, or any of His first-century followers, got involved in the politics of their day, or lobbied government officials in the hopes of swaying their minds and thus their votes. Rather, Jesus, and all of His disciples thereafter pursued souls, lobbying only for the salvation of mankind.

I have long wanted to write on this subject, but fear has kept me from doing so. Yet with all the political hullabaloo happening in America (and elsewhere in this world), I feel prompted to finally speak up. Albeit, encouragingly, I hope!

Why? Because it truly pains me to see so many committed Christ-followers getting caught up in politics and political agendas rather than evangelism. It's almost as if we have lost our biblical bearings, and quite honestly it is heartbreaking. Jesus' directive in Matthew 28:19-20 does not say (tongue-in-cheek, of course), "Go, make policies, baptizing politicians into your own self-serving agendas, and try to teach them right from wrong."

No, in my opinion, Jesus wasn't a political person. He was already — and still is! — the King of kings and Lord of lords. He holds the highest Office already (of the Universe, no less).

While on this earth, He did not promote Himself or pander to self-aggrandizement. That would have been abhorrent to Him, given His humble servant's nature (Philippians 2:4-8). Nor would He let others tout His fame either. Rather He pointedly told His disciples and those whom He had healed not to broadcast who He was or what He had done (Mark 1:43-44, 7:36, 8:27-30). Not that all of them listened!

And, actually, at times He was maddeningly evasive. When He discovered that the crowds wanted to "make Him king by force, [He] withdrew again to a mountain by Himself" (John 6:15). In fact, He pulled this Houdini-type act several times; He would suddenly disappear when the crowds pressed in too closely, too demandingly, only to reappear somewhere else just as suddenly and unexpectedly.

Not exactly the kind of behavior befitting a politician. Most run into the public limelight, making themselves overly-available, foisting themselves upon us in the most egregious and insulting manner.

Jesus wasn't a back-stabber or slanderer either. He only had kind words, gracious responses, loving touches, a forgiving demeanor, and a genuine love and honesty that made Him highly attractive to the down-and-out masses who were beleaguered by the burdensome laws and liberalities of the governmental authorities and religious elite.

The only instances where Jesus ever used derogatory language was when He addressed the religious authorities, the Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them "hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness, full of lawlessness, snakes, brood of vipers" (Matthew 23:27-28, 33).

Ironically, such language today would be labeled as bullying.

Furthermore, there is only one account recorded in Scripture where Jesus addressed anything remotely related to politics, in Mark 12:17, and that was only in response to a trap set by the Pharisees with regard to paying taxes, which Jesus deftly side-stepped with this wise response: "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Friends, Jesus was all about liberating the religiously oppressed. Not the politically oppressed. He even refused to get behind the Jewish agenda of liberation from the tyrannical rule of Rome. He followed, rather, His Father's agenda, which was to "save that which was lost" (Matthew 18:11). The spiritually lost, that is, not the politically lost!

Even if Jesus had overthrown Rome, sadly peoples' souls still would have been left dead in their sins. Although they would have been politically liberated, they still would have been spiritually lifeless. Political freedom — while good in many respects — does not ultimately free or heal our soul-sickness nor alter our default destination of hell.

Jesus' heart was — and still is! — to win souls for His Father's Kingdom, to populate heaven with as many like-minded brothers and sisters as He can (those who have repented of their sins and have appropriated the free gift of grace through faith in Him, and have then loved and obeyed God with all their heart, soul and mind, and have loved all others as themselves, Ephesians 2:8-9; Matthew 22:36-40). Someone who closely followed Jesus' apolitical example was the great Apostle Paul. Interestingly, whenever this zealous, outspoken Christ-follower had a hearing before a powerful leader (like Festus or Agrippa, and had he had the chance, before Caesar in Rome), he could have easily addressed the issues of his day: slavery, temple prostitution, religious tolerance (yes, Rome practiced syncretism too), over-taxation, and many others. Rather, Paul used these opportunities, not to change their policies or their minds — but their hearts! Politics for Paul was a platform for which to preach the gospel. Nothing else!

Flash forward to today. Should we not be doing the same?

While Fox News' Political Commentator Bill O'Reilly agrees with me, I realize that there are those who take a different view. Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto being one of them. In his Huffington Post article "Was Jesus Political? Undoubtedly," he writes:
His preaching was tinged with political statements. His healings carried massive political implications for the ways we structure our world and understand our neighbor. His execution was the kind reserved for acts of political disruption. That is, he died on a cross because the political authorities of his day saw him as a threat to the political structures and order of his day.
I'm not sure which "preachings" or "healings" Mr. Barreto is referring to that carry political implications, so I cannot address those. I do agree, however, that Jesus was a threat to the Roman authorities and that they used their most heinous form of execution at that time (only to make a point lest others get any ideas). But Jesus' threat was 1) clearly misunderstood and thus created untoward fear and overreaction by government authorities, and was 2) merely a byproduct of His true mission.

Jesus did not set out to be a threat to the Roman authorities, only to the religious leaders who were leading His precious people astray and down the road to eternal ruin.

All that being said, what then should be our attitude and actions toward politics and politicians today? Biblically speaking, respect for their office and civil obedience — unless it conflicts with God's Word (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Is it wrong to work towards making changes in our government, to work towards righting the injustices of this world (i.e. human trafficking, terror attacks on the innocent, abortion)? Absolutely not! Think of William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others — all great people who effected great changes in the political arena. But keep in mind that even though changes were achieved, sin and spiritual separation from God still affected the hearts of those freed politically.

Dear friends, we need to keep politics in their right perspective, but keep evangelism and the Gospel at the forefront of our minds and our hearts, like Jesus; using politics only as a platform to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, which saves souls, like Paul.

A good litmus test would be to ask yourselves several questions:
1. Has working towards political change or on a pet cause been substituted for or distracted me from fulfilling the Great Commission? 2. Am I more concerned with politics or a political issue/agenda than I am for the souls of the unsaved?

3. Am I trying to win over politicians and their votes for my pet cause or my particular political party rather than winning souls for Christ?

4. What is my motivation behind my political involvement: self or Christ?

5. Are my conversations filled more with what politicians are (or aren't) doing and accomplishing, or with what Jesus has already done and accomplished on our behalf?
One more thing, if you'll allow me. I wonder — just wonder — if all this obsession with politics and politicians just might be a scheme of Satan's to turn our hearts away from trusting our sovereign God in these politically-charged and chaotic times and from fulfilling Jesus' discipleship directive of "making disciples"? If we are focused more on politics, politicians and the issues of our day, then Satan has succeeded at distracting God's children by keeping us from fulfilling our true missional calling. But, ultimately, pleasing Him and bringing the glory that He's due.

Food for thought.

         Thoughts to pray about.

                   Prayers to act upon accordingly.

Published 8-29-16