I am not sure if it is my age and that I have a greater awareness of politics now, but man, the political tension is thicker than my grandmother’s homemade biscuits. There is the right and the left, the liberals and conservative. These political opponents not restrained to a particular group of people. Every race has both liberals and conservatives. Every socioeconomic level has both. Every age group has both. Even within religious groups, Christianity included, there are both liberals and conservatives. But the question I want to address today is whether Jesus, if He were living today, would be a liberal or conservative?
Before we go too far, it is necessary to define the two. Liberalism focuses more on the individual and the rights of the individual. More specifically, liberalism focuses on helping the oppressed population within a society. Government is the mode of operation to do this. They work through laws and government funding to defend, protect, and help those who are being oppressed by big corporations, the poor, the victims of racial, gender, sexual orientation bias, etc.
Conservatism focuses more on the society as a whole than the individual working to keep stability. For this reason, conservatism works to ‘conserve’ things as they have been so as not to upset the apple cart. And they believe that necessary societal change should develop organically within the society as a whole rather than change being dictated by the government. For this reason, conservatism favors smaller government so that it doesn’t interfere too much causing disruption in society.
In America, there is some crossover. For example, America has been strongly influenced by Christianity so the history of our nation has defined morality and ethics to a large extent according to the same elements found in Scripture. The Bible teaches that we should help the poor, the needy, the hungry, those in prison, etc. So conservatives, in wanting to keep things as they are encourage individuals to be generous to these populations as we are taught in Matthew, Chapter 25. These are the same people that Liberalism fights for. The difference is that Conservative believe that help for these folks should come from the private sector and the Liberal believes the help should come from the government. The two parties get crossways with one another over things such as gay rights and abortion also because of our Christian influence. The point though is that there is some crossover in concern but with two distinct solutions.
So, where would Jesus stand?
Well, right off the bat, I don’t think Jesus would be conservative. He was a revolutionary. He was against the status quo. He did not work to keep the Jewish culture of His day as it had always been. He believed the system was corrupt and made things more difficult for the poor, the racially unaccepted, and the sick. We see this the best when He entered into the Temple courts. In anger, He overturned the tables of those exchanging money and selling animals for temple sacrifices. It was a case of price gouging taking advantage of the poor and making it more difficult for them to participate in their religion. They were giving bad rates of exchange and selling $5 pigeons for $50.
This is why Jesus accused them of being thieves. He was upsetting the apple cart for sure. He was not interested in keeping the same religious or political status quo.
But He did lean conservative in other ways. He called the body of Christ to exist in harmony as one living organism where the rights of the individual did not infringe upon the unity of the body. He called upon the individual to help the oppressed not the government. And even though He chastised and worked against the religious leaders who were also the government leaders, He told the people they needed to submit to their teaching.
Ok, so would He be a liberal? Well, He definitely cared about the marginalized and the downtrodden. He stood up for the woman caught in adultery. He befriended prostitutes. He loved, touched, and healed the lepers who, by law, were not supposed to be near anyone. He corrected the rich young ruler for his love of money telling him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. This seems liberal indeed.
However, when they wanted to make Him king and do His work through the government, He just slipped away. And, He had no criticism of the Roman government for the tyrannical rule over Israel. Instead He taught the Israelites to endure their lack of freedom with joy and go the extra mile. By law, they had to carry a soldier’s equipment one mile for them on demand. This is obvious oppression, but Jesus didn’t encourage them to protest, but to carry the equipment joyfully for two miles.
He encouraged the rich, young ruler to give all he had to the poor, but when Jesus saw the widow giving her offering and He knew how poor she was, He did not tell the disciples to go and give her some money to help her. When the women with very expensive perfume anointed him, the disciples had a liberal perspective. They were bothered because the perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. But Jesus rebuked them. In these cases, He prioritized them pouring out the perfume on Him than giving to the poor.. That is not very liberal. Finally, when Jesus died, the soldiers gambled to see who could have his outer garment because it was a costly garment. If Jesus were a liberal, it might be said of him that he would give everything away, but He was wearing the garment of a rich man.
When He talked about ministering to the marginalized, it was from personal conviction not in protest of a government using high taxes to make the rich richer. Liberals in a democracy would protest and petition lawmakers. But liberals under an oppressive governments try to start revolutions but Jesus didn’t.
We have to remember that when Jesus was on Earth, His priority was to glorify the Father. The Father is a Judge with compassion to design a plan to rescue humanity from itself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He judges both society as a whole and individuals. He does not want anyone to be oppressed and chastises those who do oppress. At the same time, He calls for submission to authority from the oppressed for forgiveness from the victim. He is the Lover of individual souls, yet the government rests on His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).
The temptation in our society right now is to pick one side or the other. But as Christians, our model is Jesus Christ. Our priority must be to glorify God, not a political party. And God sometimes leans left and sometimes leans right. If this is our priority, then we will probably find ourselves on different sides at different times. I can speak out about racism without endorsing groups that become racist in their reaction to racism. I can be a proponent of government assistance to the poor but still be a strong capitalist. I can speak against police brutality but back the blue wholeheartedly. I can support the advancement of women without supporting abortion. I can support the sexual freedom of everyone, but it’s completely acceptable for me to refuse to officiate a gay wedding. And if I believe there is need for societal change, I can express those opinions without hatred toward people who disagree.
We are in dangerous waters where disagreement is being portrayed as hate speech. This is absurd. My wife and I disagree all the time, but we love each other deeply. Disagreements do not have to be personal nor contentious. And if someone else cannot handle our disagreement without reacting in offense, for God’s sake, let’s respond to their offense with kind and gentle words. Let us show wisdom and restraint when we know that sharing our opinion will hurt relationships. In short, whether you lean right or left, as a believer, our priority is not political. It is spiritual. We must live to bring glory to our Father in Heaven.
Let’s face it. Politics has not saved our nation and it never will. We can’t put our faith in a person or party. But we are not without hope. The promise of God is clear:
2 Chronicles 7:12-16
“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.
13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
Our nation will be saved when the people of God return to Him and turn from sin. The Lord gave this promise to Israel and to us. We can change the direction of our nation, but it will happen with revival and holiness. The Lord gave this promise in the context of the new Temple that had been built. Corporate worship is essential to returning to the Lord and turning away from sin. If we want revival, we have to return to church and make it a priority in our life above all of the other things that take up our time. When Christians return to church to worship and grow, God will heal our land. Let’s do it. Our hope is in Jesus, not a donkey, and not an elephant 🙂
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do your politics follow the politics of Jesus? Leave a comment below.
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