2.19.2011

On Jesus and Political Advocacy

Many of you know my basic approach is to say hey, we need to advocate for the values of Jesus when it comes to public policy. (however imperfectly)  But as I'm reading in a book by Eugine Peterson titled The Jesus Way, it is not enough to believe in the theology or the values of Jesus. We need to behave like Jesus, we need to follow the way of Jesus. We have to do the right thing, the right way. (obviously)  For that reason, Eugine quickly moves beyond personal lifestyle questions, (who doesn't think they ought be like Jesus) and starts asking hard questions about how we do life in community, how we lead church, and how we live in a pluralistic democracy.  What Peterson goes on to illustrate is that there is a tension between standing up for what is right and how that is done.  For example, contrast the following two passages.


Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. - Matthew 10:34


You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:43-44 


So which is it Jesus, the way of the sword or the way of love? If I want to fight for your values Jesus, (as I define them) sometimes using violent and coercive means when necessary, is that ok?
                            
As Jesus was eating the last supper with his disciples, an interesting conversation takes place.  What has impacted me in particular is what some of the implications of this passage might be for how I think about, talk about, and engage in politics, among other things.


Excerpts from Luke 22                                                                                                                    
Jesus starts by saying: "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
 


“See, Lord, here are two swords.” say the disciples.

“That’s enough!” he replied.

I'm with the disciples, I'm confused.

Apparently they were still thinking about Jesus admonition to buy swords a few hours latter when this went down.

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.






I'm with Peter. I have some swords to bring to this fight, and if you disagree with me, I just might lop off your ear.

These are hard passages for us political junkies who claim Christ as our example.  Again we are confronted with the question.  Do we follow the way of the sword or the way of healing?

Swords and labor strikes and legislative power plays, maybe they are all the same thing, maybe it is utterly impossible to engage in politics and love your enemy.  Now, the fact is, I think some Christians are called to be intimately involved in politics.  But when we consider the example of Jesus...  truly these are the "hard teachings" of Christ.  We all want to be the greatest, we want to win, (so we can help others of course) we want to "save the world" but unfortunately, some of us will do anything to accomplish this.  If the good of others and the communities we live in is truly our aim, than we have to stop and consider not just the teaching or theology of Jesus...   but the way of Jesus.

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. - Luke 22:24-26

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