If you aren’t feeling ready to move to your own private island right now, then you aren’t paying attention to this election season.
This has been the most vile and crazy making time in American politics I’ve witnessed in my short 31 years on this planet. Many of my Christian friends have been agonizing over what to do. Do we vote for Trump in hopes that at least he will appoint good justices and judges? Do we vote for Hillary to stop Trump from burning down the world? Do we vote third party or write in or not vote at all? Do we vote on principle or vote pragmatically? Which party is closer to Christian values? And can Jesus just come back already and spare us this decision?
There are many ways to analyze and talk about this election, but for Christians, I think we need a foundational understanding of where our allegiance lies.
There was once a preacher man who walked around Roman occupied Judea, doing miracles and teaching people about this thing called ‘the Kingdom of God’. The politics in Judea at this time were tense. There was a tyrannical and even terroristic government dominating the Jews. Uprisings of zealots happened with some regularity; rebels rising up in ‘righteous anger’ to throw off the Roman empire, only to be brutally squashed. Some Jews had more of a ‘go along to get along’ – people like tax collectors, who found ways to make a pretty penny off their national situation.
Needless to say, the radicals and tax collector types didn’t get along. They had polar opposite ways of approaching the politics of the day.
Somehow though, when this preacher man came through, he saw fit to choose both types of people to come along of his mission to bring this new ‘Kingdom of God’.
This Kingdom of God thing was something unlike what both the zealots and the tax collectors had ever heard. It was outside their framework for thinking about countries, kings, national boundaries, power, Caesars, battles, and laws.
The preacher man talked about servanthood, sacrifice, humility, love, and mercy that triumphed over judgement. He spoke about how the world was upside down, because really, the last were first and the greatest were least. The Kingdom of God meant that God was rightful King and He had come to win back his rebel kids; not by crushing them or by pacifying them, but by revealing the depths of His goodness and His love for them. All creation could return to it’s rightful King and the world would be in full bloom under such goodness. The Kingdom of God.
Both tax collectors and zealots were drawn to him. His words would have convicted them both. Yet we don’t have any record of him ever weighing in on which of their political approaches was better… because in reality neither approach translated well to this Kingdom of God paradigm.
We don’t know exactly how either of their political convictions would have changed, but we do know a few things:
1. They didn’t kill each other. Seriously, a zealot knifing a tax collector in the middle of the night totally could have been a thing. And not only didn’t they not kill each other, but they found themselves on the same team. Brothers. I’m sure they had some interesting conversations, but they stayed on the same team and found the same ultimate allegiance… which brings me to my second point…
2. Their focus shifted. Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily change your political leanings, but it does change your heart. When Jesus’ followers commit to their King and His Kingdom, all other allegiances become secondary. The conviction that Rome had no right to control Jerusalem was submitted to the conviction that we love our neighbors and enemies alike. The draw to make the system work for our own pocketbook was submitted to the belief that we treat others how we want to be treated, regardless of what is ‘legal’. The rules and allegiances in this new kingdom were utterly different from the rules and allegiances of normal world systems.
And then this preacher man/messiah/king goes and gets Himself killed.
The sense of defeat must have been overwhelming. Apparently this upside down Kingdom with it’s humble King was too good to be true. How foolish they’d been. The political powers of the day had crushed their vision of a world made right.
Perhaps they should have gone back to the old ways, at least a little. Maybe this Kingdom of God needed a bit of ‘help’ from the political options in their arsenal. Maybe they should have fought the Roman guard in Gethsemane. I mean, how can a Kingdom remain if it doesn’t at least use some self defense and protect it’s own?
Well apparently it can. Apparently no sword or whip or roman cross could destroy this upside down kingdom. Apparently, when you kill love, it insists on coming back, like a surprise sunflower that brings with it a thousand new seeds.
Brothers and sisters, there are difficult decisions to make this election, and many things hang in the balance, but the Kingdom of God is not one of them. It will rise from those who are following our assassinated and victorious King whether America elects Trump or Hillary. It will rise whether laws make life easier or harder for Christians. It will rise whether America rises or falls.
What matters most for the church is that our allegiance is to Jesus and His law of love above and beyond any political conviction about liberty or laws or the best way government works. Those convictions matter infinitely less than our conviction that Jesus is our King.
For me, voting is one way in which I chose to love my neighbor and promote justice in the world. It’s a tiny way and it’s an imperfect way. The 99% rest of my life I have to live with that same allegiance and conviction that I’m a citizen of God’s good Kingdom regardless of national laws and boundaries. I must live with that same conviction that democrats and republicans, Christians and atheists, Iraqis and Americans are people to be loved, not people to be hated or feared.
This doesn’t mean that all our political options are morally equal right now. I’ve got definite opinions of what the better way to vote is. But I know believers who disagree, and instead of continuing to argue over policy, I want to point us to the bigger picture. And that bigger picture isn’t the tenuous future of America. It’s the unstoppable future of God’s upside down Kingdom.