Sometimes, I get fatigued just watching the news. “News” is really a misnomer because reporting and journalism is a thing of the past. “News” is just panels of people yelling and speaking over each other. They use a set of carefully-crafted talking points about whatever issue has America’s collective attention. It is like a twenty-four-hour cycle of watching people slug it out. No news. All opinion. All anger. No politeness. Just political points and op-ed. MSNBC is Far Left vs. Left, CNN is Left vs. Center, and Fox News is Center-Right vs. Far Right.
The internet is worse. The Huffington Post is an echo chamber for socialist thought, while the Drudge Report could not be more right-wing. And there are hundreds of other examples of opinion parading as journalism, but the practice is representative of our culture at large—people of different opinions do not respect or even speak to each civilly other anymore.
The prevailing attitude is that people who believe differently are “enemies,” “evil,” and “other.” Often, Christians participate by taking sides and giving offense with the rest of the world. But is that what our Heavenly Father expects of us? Does it make him glad when He watches His children embrace this culture of insult and hostility? Should we not be above the fray?
Have you ever looked at the beliefs and group memberships of the close followers of Jesus? Simon the zealot was an insurrectionist against the Romans and sought to overthrow their rule with violent revolution. Matthew the tax collector was so pro-Roman he was considered a traitor by his people. He accepted and thrived under Roman rule.
These two, in modern American terms, would be as different politically as members of the Tea Party and Communist Party. Most of Jesus’s disciples were working class, but Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the Apostle Paul were rich members of the Pharisees, a powerful religious/political party. Pharisees had a derogatory term for people below their station that roughly translates as “people of the land” but has a meaning closer to “not as important as us.”
Most of our Lord’s early followers were Jewish, but do not forget He associated with a Roman Centurion, a Samaritan woman, and a Syro-Phoenician woman. A Jewish rabbi with women followers was unheard of in First Century Israel. Jesus certainly did not seem to care where people came from as long as they were willing to follow Him with their whole heart and lay down their previous beliefs in favor of His Kingdom. When our Lord did offer correction to one of His disciples, it was for words, actions, and choices—never for their previous group identity. Jesus only dealt with groups when people came as a group to challenge Him.
Jesus lets us know His expectations for His followers in regard to previous associations and group identities when He said, “’Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind’” (Matt. 13:47, ESV). The Kingdom of Heaven is going to have fish of every kind. Wow. Remember Jesus had already explained what a ‘fish’ was in His parables. Our Lord called the first disciples to be “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19, ESV). Fish of every kind: race, gender, socio-economic status, class, education, political party, etc…will be gathered in the net of the Kingdom of Heaven. Every kind of person—let that sink in.
I think some of us are going to be offended at who the Lord allows into Heaven. When I was growing up, a great many people in my church thought that to be a Christian you were necessarily a Republican, an originalist, and patriotic. They viewed the love of America and nationalism as almost an eleventh commandment. As an adult, I have gone to church with many people that harbored a liberation theology. They believe the government, the rich, and the powerful are corrupt and evil. They typically vote Democrat and view life through a lens of grievances. Which view is correct? I would submit that neither is.
While I will agree that some issues are ones of morality and I do vote in every election, most political and group identification has nothing to do with our theology. Some of you are red-faced and mad at that last statement, but really, do you think if Jesus were on Earth, He would be a Republican or Democrat? Or any party in any country for that matter?
The Apostle Peter reveals what our Lord thought of political parties and group affiliation. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (1 Pet. 2:9-10, ESV).
Jesus repeatedly talked about His Kingdom. Kingdom literally means ‘King’s Domain.’ We have spiritualized our Lord’s teachings so much that we often miss the obvious point of what He was saying. He is a King who came to bring His Kingdom (which was not of the world) to the earth. JESUS WAS TELLING YOU THAT HE IS NOT A RELIGIOUS FIGURE BUT A POLITICAL ONE. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself into which tribe Jesus was born. Levi was the priestly tribe. Judah was the tribe of the Kings. Jesus is called the ‘lion of the tribe of Judah,’ and His lineage is traced to King David, not to Aaron the first High Priest.
One of the reasons Christians are frustrated by politics, race, beliefs, etc. is because they are identifying with the wrong ones. We are members of our Lord’s Kingdom. We are neither white, black, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat, pro-this, anti-that, etc. Look at the verse above—our race is chosen (and combined from a lot of individuals who were not a people before), our vocation is priestly, our nation is Holy, and we are possessions of the King.
Many of our deeply held beliefs must be laid down for the Kingdom. Listen to what the Apostle John says the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus will be like:
“From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:15-16, ESV).
Does this sound like there is going to be any democratic processes remaining? What about freedom of the press? Or the right to speak freely? What about the freedom to associate with whomever we wish? All these are deeply held and ingrained American beliefs, but they are not consistent with the Kingdom.
Do you see? For too long the church has lived as just another part of the world—another way to believe or group to be a part of—far too intermingled with ideas and groups that are not consistent with our Lord’s calling. But we are not just one alternative belief system of many. We are part of the Kingdom of God, and it is past time that we start to act like it. When we identify with any other groups, we are degrading our higher membership. All of our current demographics, identifiers, and beliefs—our isms—are nothing in comparison to being part of His Kingdom.
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