When Jesus visibly came to earth, He came to a setting that was a long way from a democracy. Roman rule was absolute. Caesar was not questioned. This wasn’t just not democracy; it was the antithesis of democracy.
Yet, what did Jesus tell people? “Render unto Caesar…” He didn’t say to overthrow the government. He didn’t suggest that the people should try pushing for a democracy.
Instead, He said something far more radical. “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) That’s crazy talk.
Well, unless He was far more interested in eternal things than temporal ones. Unless He was more interested in the souls of people than in earthly governments. Then it’s not crazy talk. Then it all makes sense.
He didn’t come to overthrow that evil government. He could have. But He didn’t.
He came to redeem people. To make dead people alive. To bring people back into a right relationship with the Father. When you hold that picture up against a particular form of government, there’s not much comparison, is there?
For centuries, people – including Christians – have lived and even thrived under socialist regimes and even totalitarianism. In fact, it was in the culture of a pagan ruling monarch – who had delusions that he was a god – that the Holy Spirit prompted the Apostle Paul to write:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1-2)
In context of the history of that day, I really don’t like those words. But they’re in the Bible.
Honestly, as I read the Bible, I think God is far less concerned about the form of government than we are. Again, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
In the Old Testament, God was upset when the people wanted a king. But it wasn’t because in God’s mind that was a less-desirable form of government than, say, if the people had requested a president. No, it was because they had rejected God.
Any form of government we have is so far below what God wants for us that to suggest that one form of earthly government is vastly superior to another seems to miss the higher plans and purposes of God.
From our perspective, democracy – and its twin brother, capitalism – is often seen as a good and godly idea. But there is nothing in Scripture that would suggest that democracy – every person getting a vote in whatever happens – is God’s choice for government. And, the fact is that capitalism helped bring about the greediness of Wall Street, and that greed was a major contributing factor to a number of serious social issues, including the housing collapse of several years ago and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. In fact, many would suggest that it is that disparity that has helped fuel the growing terrorism of this century.
Now, please hear me. I am not saying that capitalism and democracy are emphatically, across-the-board wrong. But they are not necessarily always right, either.
And don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I greatly appreciate the government and even the culture in which I grew up. It has afforded a dimension of ease and comfort and stability that is nice, even intoxicating. Having been immersed in such a setting for so very long, we can think this is God’s best. And I will say that I do think there is a dimension of God’s blessing on us as a nation. But when that blessing is turned inward – when the things that God gave as gifts, including great blessings like freedom and prosperity, when those become the objects of our affections in place of Him – then maybe there’s a problem.
“We have allowed our vision for America to capture our hearts more deeply than God’s vision for us as his ambassadors.” [Charles Drew, Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew?, Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012, pg. 50 (Kindle version)]
See, I think we have to ask ourselves, “What is most important?”
Think about it. Why is the Church flourishing in China today, when, in many ways, it’s floundering here? In large part it’s because our life of freedom – of ease and comfort – has made us far-less committed disciples.
And, again, don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to leave my children or grandchildren in a culture where they don’t have the freedoms that we have enjoyed. I really don’t like that idea at all.
At the same time, if given the choice to give them an environment where they will be more likely to prosper materially or one where they will be more likely to prosper spiritually, that isn’t a difficult decision.
Honestly, I am far less concerned about the outcome of this election than I am the process. The name-calling and demeaning comments from Christians toward those who are not of “our fold” is damaging to the message of Christ. That – far more than our lifestyle options or long-term comfort here – should be our higher interest.
We’re only here on earth for a short time. According to my calculations, eternity is going to be a lot longer than whatever time we have here.
If it comes down to two options: souls being saved or our comfort here and now, which do you think should be the higher priority for us as His people?
(By the way, before you write to correct me, let me add this: I am not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t vote, nor that Christians shouldn’t speak up about right and wrong. I do think we have put too much effort into politics and not enough into the Kingdom of God.)