Growing up, I was often told, “Never talk about politics and religion because you’re going to offend someone.” Well, that is still, and likely more-true now. Politics and religion, commonly considered off-limits for casual conversation, may be a great way to end a relationship if one dares to broach the topic. So, here I go – a twofer!
Grabbing the Rail
In the Chicago area, where I attended high school and college, and where I got my first job, the electric trains have three rails – two to drive, and a center rail (the Third Rail) that carries the electric current. Touching the third rail means certain death. And, so anytime anyone broached a taboo or politically incorrect subject in conversation or communication, the act of expressing an opinion received the name – touching the third rail. Metaphorically speaking, certain death was about to occur.
Politics and Religion – Israel’s Theocratic System
- Moses led the new nation of Israel in a solemn ceremony binding together Israel and their God who dwelled among them
- God spoke to the people of Israel through Moses who led the nation according to God’s Will
- God gave Moses The Ten Commandments upon which are based The Law – The first five books of the Bible (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
- The Books of The Law governed Israel through Moses, then Joshua, The Prophets, the Judges of Israel, the Kings of Israel
- In Jesus’s time, Israel was a conquered Theocracy (according to Oxford online, a theocracy is a government system in which priests rule in the name of God or a god)
- In Jesus’s time, the Sanhedrin governed Israel, ruling in Moses’ place, burdening the people with the cumbersome interpretation of God’s Law
Political Dissident Jesus is the Model
Jesus knew The Law and that God’s Law is good. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Therefore, when Jesus confronted the Sanhedrin regarding issues of social justice, law, or religious interpretation, by the political nature of the body with whom he argued, Jesus was discussing politics – how leaders used God’s Word in governing.
Jesus could have refused to confront the Sanhedrin and only addressed the social and cultural aspects of God’s word without ever facing the political rulers. He could have stuck to the role of sacrificial lamb for the redemption of humanity. Instead, His choice was to call out the problems and failures of the government in their interpretation or implementation of God’s Holy Word. Thus Jesus chose to make himself a political dissident and model of Godly activism (as defined by Oxford online – one who opposes the official policy or to be in opposition to official policy). In the end, we know the Sanhedrin’s decision to crucify Jesus was a political choice.
Politics and Religion – Conviction of a Disciple
As a believer and passionate follower of Christ, The King, decisions in social, cultural, and political arenas must comply with God’s Word. For, as a subject of the King, Jesus, then the disciple must comply with the King’s desires, or by refusing, reject the role as subject and declare one’s self free of His ruling power.
Politics and Religion – Therefore, as a disciple of Christ, the disciple is both obligated as His subject and as His disciple to model His behavior, see the signs of the times, and join the political conversation in His name and according to His Word. Thus, the disciple must act politically according to the design Jesus provided and attempt to influence others likewise to act. And, as Jesus said, “’If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also (John 15:18-20).”
And so, as the corrupt politicians chose to persecute and ultimately crucify their Messiah, know that the blow-back from political action is only the response about which Jesus warned. I do not pretend to tell you how to vote or act politically, only that believers should not remain silent.