Now it’s a new election season and my Facebook feed is deluged by posts about Trump, Sanders, and Hillary. It raised a question in my mind about how we should look at political issues as Christians. Philosopher Peter Kreeft in the book The Philosophy of Jesus has a chapter on Jesus’ ethics that provides some insight.
Liberals, Conservatives, Moderates, and Jesus?
The World’s Smallest Political Quiz has five results on two scales: left, center, right, and anarchy or totalitarianism. Your politics can be liberal or conservative, maybe even sitting in the middle. The question is how much do you want the government involved in the issue and what areas do you want them involved in?
They’re still being weighed against each other. Human morality and clashing worldviews meeting on the battleground. Caveats are made, compromises are added into bills on issues of morality. We’re using the wrong standard.
Which Standard Then?
If you follow Christ, then you weigh it against his standards and decide from there. Kreeft said that the standard is found in divine revelation (the Bible), natural law (a person’s intrinsic value and freedom) and our consciences. When looking at the Bible for the standard, remember that much of Leviticus and Deuteronomy is about the newborn nation of Israel being set apart to be fundamentally different from other nations.
It’ll take some homework, but I’ll make it easy for you. Find the two greatest commandments, then logically weigh an issue against them. Is God first, and does it recognize the value of others? Then you have to answer that for every group affected.
Ever hear the term “walking the straight and narrow”? That line should be Jesus’ teachings. It’s integrated and when we pick and choose, we step off the path and go either left or right. Then we have to convince others why your pieces are better than their pieces.
Kreeft wrote that Jesus gives us better reasons for doing things than political moralizing. His examples were to feed the poor because Jesus said it was like doing it for him, in a parable (Matthew 25:31-46), and not for sentiment or political correctness. He also loves sinners (which is good since that’s what we are), but hates the wrong they’re doing. If your kid is messing up, intentionally or not, do you hate them for what they did?
We’re to do good for people because Jesus did. We can’t hold any prejudices because he didn’t, not against Jew, Samaritan, Gentile (non-Jews), leper, or sinners; he wants them all to come to him. We follow him, not our preferences; if something is to be sacrificed, it’s the latter.
Don’t get hung up on traditions in case something new and better comes along. However, be faithful to the standards because Jesus is unchanging. An example I’ve heard used is a circle with three layers: the center is the non-negotiables of Christianity, then the traditions in the next layer, and finally opinions are in the outermost layer. Only the center matters.
Jesus is that center. I like how Kreeft put it, and I’m paraphrasing, “Jesus is a ‘bleeding-heart liberal’ and a ‘hard-headed conservative’”. He then goes on to say that Christ isn’t a team player with people’s causes. They can’t recruit him. He has to recruit them, and they have to team up with him. Case in point, after he fed the 5,000, the people wanted to make him king, and Jesus left before they could grab him. You can’t recruit him.
The religious right have to beware slipping into legalism like the Pharisees did. One can follow the rules, but not have love, and be like a healthy looking tree that is rotting inside. The standards are there, but it’s only a part of the picture.
The religious left have to watch out for worshipping Jesus’ values, but not him. It is its own form of legalism that is also just a part of the picture. Kreeft compares it to the Sadducees during the first century. Both miss the mark.
You can be legalistic, but will never match Christ’s perfection. Alternatively, even the most altruistic heart is cold in comparison to Christ’s heart. You don’t change people for the better by winning just their mind or heart; they change by coming to Christ himself.
How Do Politics Stack Up Against Jesus?
You don’t need a particular candidate; it’s Christ that is needed, not just his doctrines or values. They don’t save you. Societies fade into history, empires fall, time marches on, new ones appear. Put Jesus at the center. To quote Pastor Rod awhile back, “Be followers of Christ, and leaders of others to him.” It’s the change inside that truly changes the outside. That’s how you can affect change that lasts, not by enforcing laws or values.