I’ve been told throughout the years to not bring politics into the church, which seemed like a semi-reasonable request to me at first because I was really only interested in talking about Jesus. But over time, it was my studies of Jesus, the Bible and history, that led me to see that I would have to engage politics because of my faith. Here are three quick reasons I feel compelled to occasionally “get political” in church.
1. Jesus’ Favorite Message Was About His Kingdom
Whether you call it the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God, the Bible shows us that the two expressions are of the same thing. This Kingdom is not an abstract concept that Jesus occasionally preached on, but one of His favorite messages about an actual place in which Christians are citizens (Philippians 3:20) who fall under Jesus’ rule. Because we don’t live in kingdoms as much anymore, it helps to hear it in modern semantics: We are citizens of the country of Heaven in which Jesus is president. And since Heaven is where we live, it’s important that we therefore practice the politics that have been sort forth in that place (Matthew 5-7).
Jesus is the ultimate authority there. No president; no king; no from of political leader will ever be like Him or sit in His place. “If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not,” so the saying goes. Or again, to modernize, “If Jesus is President, Trump is not.” As Christians, our allegiance is to Jesus and Jesus alone–and as the early church showed, living in His kingdom may require us to do some jail time or it may even ask for our own blood. The early church truly believed Jesus and His kingdom were worth that much.
2. Politics Have Always Been Religion
While we claim that there is separation between church and state, many Christians act as though the state is under the anointing of God and therefore His mouthpiece. This way of thinking is actually quite ancient. All throughout history leaders have claimed to be guided by the gods or even to be gods themselves. They claim divinity and therefore, to disobey them is to disobey a god. With that being said, politics have always operated as religion—they have always been one and the same. Therefore, when Jesus comes preaching His own kingdom, He is calling us to pull out of our own political religions and join His.
And while we might think that the separation of church and state would have changed our perception of politics being religion, you only have to come in contact with a handful of Christians to see otherwise. Speaking against the nation in any way causes some Christians to rage as though you just spoke against God himself. But America is not Heaven. Trump is not Jesus. American politics are not Heavenly politics. And when earthly country, leadership and politics become sacred to us, we have worshipped the forbidden. And once we’re on our knees before her, we will find ourselves trying to submit Jesus to her reign rather than vice versa.
We’ve created a theology to get around separating church and state by claiming that our rulers are servants of God and can do no wrong and that following them is somehow following Jesus. I think God would be surprised by this, seeing as how He vocalized through the prophet Hosea that we make kings and princes without Him that that He does not recognize them as His authorities (Hosea 8:4).
3. The Prophets Were Political By Nature
Another compelling reason to speak against ungodly politics is simply in the fact that the prophets did it. It was a part of their God-ordained job to keep country and king on track with what God wanted, and this is exactly why people hated the prophets and even went so far as to kill them. Nobody minded claiming to be God’s people, but everyone minded living like it. And it was Israel’s inability to listen and enact God’s politics that landed her in captivity. God’s own people brought Hell to Earth rather than Heaven, so God let them experience the weight of their sin.
Little has changed in the way we treat prophets. For example, I share the words of God’s inspired Scriptures to remind fellow Christians of how God wants us to live and love and I am threatened and yelled at by none other than these same Christians. Israel didn’t want to hear it then and if we’re honest, we don’t want to hear it now. You can shut up the prophetic messages of the Bible if you wish, but it’s hard to live in the Kingdom of Heaven when God can’t teach what Heaven looks like.
I’ve studied and engaged in this conversation many times before and I already know the passages and comments that will be given in return. However, I don’t have time to cover all of that here. All of that being said, I welcome us to continue living in the Kingdom of Heaven and to bring that Kingdom to Earth, because while Jesus’ reign has already been inaugurated on the cross, it has yet to come here in full. One day we will see the fullness of that Kingdom as related to us in Revelation, but until then we continue to share the good news with those around us so that they might join God’s Kingdom—since, after all, the major reason Jesus has delayed coming back for so long is because God wants more to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9). So we continue to love those around us with the unconditional crazy love of God’s Kingdom.