There are two different views of politics. No, I’m not talking about political parties. I’m not talking about ideologies either. I’m not talking about right or wrong, left or right, or any other variation of these things. I’m not talking about a debate about the role and size of government either. I’m not talking about how much government involvement there should be in a person’s life, or community, or nation. None of that.
You might not even be aware that there are two different views of politics because it isn’t talked about much. Most people think there is only one view of politics – the type they see the most often.
But a second view of politics exists.
Often, people, especially church people, are afraid when a religious figure starts to speak in a political way. And with good reason. Many of the more vocal religious figures speak about politics in the same way that the rest of the world does.
I think people fear and dislike religious figures talking politics, or anything that sounds political, because what they think is “normal” politics is what will come out. And what is that? You know full well what “normal” politics is – rude, insulting, dehumanizing, divisive, angry, fear-filled, unjust, oppressive, exploitative, damaging, greedy, lying, short sighted, scapegoating, and power hungry. That’s what we’ve come to expect of our politics isn’t it? Be honest.
So, why do we expect this kind of politics? Why do expect this behavior from politicians? Why do we expect it from political party officials? Why do we expect it from the talking heads on TV? Why do we expect it from “news” organizations that cover politics? Why do we expect it from religious figures who talk politics? Why do we expect it from each other anytime politics is talked about?
Why do we just throw up our hands and expect this? Why have we resigned ourselves to sub-par politics and politicians that are self-serving at best, and destructive at worst? Why do we settle for crappy politics? Why do believe that this is the way it’s always been and always will be? Why do we willingly vote for politicians who wear their supposed faith on their sleeve yet advocate policies and act in opposition to everything Christ stands for? Frankly, it’s pathetic. And it doesn’t have to be. This view of politics is not the norm, the best we are capable of, the bar against which we measure anything else.
Why don’t we expect politicians to be more like what it means to be a follower of Jesus? Why isn’t that considered the norm?
And what would that look like? We read and hear what it means throughout Scripture. Psalm 146 presents what the politics of the Kingdom of God is like and who we are to put our trust in.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
“Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
“Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
“The Lord will reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!”
Or we can look at Isaiah 11:1-9 –
“A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
“He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.”
Or we can look at the New Testament. Let’s look at Matthew 25:31-46 –
“‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”
The politics of God are far different than what we have come to accept as normal politics over the centuries. As we see throughout Scripture, God’s politics relate to the two great commands – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Carrying out God’s politics means caring for the poor, as numerous Scripture clearly tells us. God’s politics means feeding the hungry. God’s politics are about seeing the image of God in all peoples – friend and enemy. God’s politics is about being a good steward of the earth. God’s politics is about welcoming the stranger and treating the alien as you would a resident. God’s politics is about bringing about peace – living in shalom. God’s politics is about bringing healing – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. God’s politics is about the Sabbath and rest instead of constant work. God’s politics is about empowering people, not lording over them. God’s politics is about turning implements of war into implements of peace and prosperity. God’s politics is about using money as a tool to bring about the Kingdom, not something that gets to determine how decisions are made.
God’s politics won’t be found in a political party platform. Sure, there are bits and pieces of God’s politics in our political parties platforms. We may even try to implement some of these from time to time. But too often, we would rather reject God’s politics and settle for what we expect.
I’m tired of settling for the politics that we have – especially when the politics we could have is so much better. Which do you want – the politics we have, or the politics of God? Now the real question – what are you going to do about it? If nothing, then why? Why are you settling? Why are you not willing to live into what we are called to? Why do you claim to be a follower of Jesus and yet settle for something that is in opposition to Jesus?
God is calling us to a better politics. Are we willing to die to self – to our current systems? Are we willing to begin to live into what God calls us to? What’s the hold up? Don’t give me the excuse that it’s too big and you don’t know where to start. Just start. Start with what you do know – what God calls us to. Start with what you post about online. Start with who you support for public office. Start with talking with others who recognize our calling. Start by imagining how things could be different. Just start. And don’t stop. Don’t look for perfect in this. Just better. We deserve better. We have a responsibility for better politics. And it won’t change until each one of us decide that settling isn’t good enough anymore.