If you had the opportunity to sit down and ask Jesus what his political views are, what do you think he’d say?
Since the 1st century, Christians from around the world have interpreted Jesus’ life and teaching differently, sometimes very differently. In fact, Christians have even gone to wars over these differences–consider Catholic and Protestant Conflicts in Ireland within the last century (The Troubles) or the United States Civil War. Both conflicts were waged because of divergent and opposing political views among Christians.
Today in US politics, we have two leading political parties in Congress (Republicans and Democrats) nearly 90% of whom are Bible believing Christians with very different interpretations about how to apply the Bible today. This becomes abundantly clear when you look at their differing political views and policies. From gun rights to gun reform laws, from the military to policing, from education to healthcare, from human rights to religious freedoms, Christians in political office have vastly differing political views and policies.
For those of us who follow Jesus today, which political views that we have are in keeping with the life and teachings of Jesus? If you had the opportunity to ask Jesus today what his political views are, what do you think he’d say?
I’m going to share my own response to that question, but before going there I should acknowledge that I am very aware that my interpretations about Jesus’ political views are likely biased. They are based on my life experience, my training, my upbringing, my over thirty-five years of reading and meditating on the Bible, and a whole bunch of other factors. But then again, we all have bias and have been shaped in countless ways over the span of our lives (as much as we might assume we have “the correct Biblical” interpretation).
That being said, while I could be wrong about some of my suggestions, I hope they might at the very least inspire some thoughtful engagement about what you personally think or believe Jesus would say when asked about his political views. Even if you disagree with me, perhaps this post will still lead to some meaningful conversations with friends, family and others. And perhaps this process will support all of us in becoming more well rounded people.
In my last blog post “Politics of a Hometown Prophet,” I briefly summarized seven political views of Jesus. I’d like to extend that to ten political views this time around with clarifying comments underneath them. So open your thinking cap and consider how the things we say about Jesus matters not just in church, but in how we engage the political landscape of our world.
So let’s get to it.
10 political views of Jesus
1. Leadership and Power
Leadership and power are not a display of force or coercion, but a demonstration of self-sacrificial service to others for their benefit.
Jesus said that leaders in our world often lead by bullying and bossing people around, but this is not the way he leads nor the way he taught his followers to lead. In fact, he warned against it. To be a great leader meant and means, instead, humbling ourselves and learning how to serve others rather than demand to be served. To lead well means to intentionally give ourselves in service for the benefit of others.
Giving rather than taking. Nurturing and helping rather than bullying and controlling.
Leadership is not about maintaining power, but about giving away power. It’s not about having power over, but about sharing power and empowering others. According to Jesus, nearly every assumption or stigma we’ve often attached to power and leadership should actually be the opposite.
Consider: Mark 8:34-38; 10:32-52; Matthew 16:21-28 and the entire chapter of Matthew 23.
2. Fellow human beings
Love of God and love of neighbor go together.
At the top of Jesus code of ethics (what he called the life and way of the kingdom), you simply can’t separate your love for God and your love for your fellow human beings. In order to love God well, you need to lean into loving and caring for your neighbor well. In order to love your neighbor well, you need to lean into loving God well. Both inform the other and clarify the other. For Jesus, loving one’s neighbor extends beyond our usual categories of “acceptable people to love” and moves into the unexpected domain of anyone and everyone.
Consider: Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:23-37.
Love of neighbor includes even enemies.
It is not enough to love your closest friends and family members. It’s not enough to love those who treat you well. Jesus taught that love of God extends to even our mortal enemies. For 1st century Jews, their enemies were the Romans. For Jesus, no one is excluded from God or God’s love.
Consider: Matthew 5:10-16 and 5:43-48.
Love of neighbor also includes extending yourself to those outside your own people group, tribe or nation.
People are people are people are people. According to Jesus, God is the creator of all things and God does not show favoritism. All people are born in the image of God. While Jesus’ priority was to help his own people to flourish and get back on track, he also spent time caring for and helping non-Jewish persons, like Samaritans (having a Jewish and non-Jewish ancestry), Roman military leaders and their families (Roman soldiers were enemies of the Jewish people), the oppressed man from the Gerasenes, and the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter…to name a few.
Consider: John 4:1-43; Matthew 5:43-48; 8:5-12; 8:28-34; 15:21-28; 25:31-46; Mark 7: 24-37 and Luke 10:23-3.
God is concerned with those who are poor and taught his followers to care for them too.
Jesus spent some of his public career feeding, healing and spending time with those who were poor. His disciples also did the same after his death. Caring for the poor was at the top of the list of attributes for how the early Christian community should function.
Consider: Matthew 6:1-4; 14:13-21;15:29-39; & 25:31-46; Mark 6:32-56; 8:1-10; Acts 2:44-47; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24.
Women have equal worth and purpose in God’s family and the mission of Jesus.
Jesus spent time talking with women (a cultural faux pa during 1st century Judaism, especially when alone, like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well). He healed women of sickness and disease. He had women disciples, another cultural faux pa; only men could be disciples of teachers/rabbis. When presented with the opportunity to judge the adulterous actions of a woman, Jesus broke the male-centric practice of his day (giving preference to men) by considering both parties in the adultery (the man and the woman); he also saved her life. Women were also the first people who both saw Jesus post-resurrection and to announce it to his male disciples. They would eventually take on other leadership roles in the early church, but this newfound equality with men was met with male resistance.
Consider: Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 12:46-50; 27:55-28:20; Mark 5:25-43; 12:41-44; 16:1-8; Luke 4:24-26; 4:38-44; 7:11-17; 7:36-50; 8:1-3; 13:10-17; 18:1-8; 21:1-4; 24:1-53; John 4:1-42; 7:53-8:11; and 20:1-31.
All children are worthy of love, care and protection.
When children were brought to Jesus, he embraced them, unlike his disciples who were acting from the low cultural view of children in Jesus’ day. Jesus once rebuked adults who would attempt to trip up children by their bad example.
Consider: Matthew 18:1-7; 19:13-15; Mark 9:42 and Luke 18:15-17.
8. Non-violent resistance
Serving and loving your enemies and others who oppose you should be met with intentional non-violent responses.
Jesus taught his followers to practice non-violence as an expression of resistance to injustice. He modeled it himself by willingly dying on a cross at the hands of his enemies instead of leading a charge of militant Jews to overthrow the Romans (which some wanted him to do). Turning the other cheek when struck and going an extra mile when Roman soldiers demanded Jews to carry their things were ways of confronting injustice non-violently. Jesus taught his followers to not take the life of another.
Consider: Matthew 5:21-22; 5:38-48; 26:47-54 and Luke 6:27-49.
9. Reconciled Relationships
Since everything and everyone is loved by God, every broken relationship is worth mending through humble invitation, reception, confrontation, repentance, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Most of Jesus’ teaching dealt with fractures in human relationships and fractures in our relationship with God. His solution was to talk it out as of first importance. To make things right. This involved confronting the wrong done against you by another when they are unwilling to acknowledge it themselves. To involve others if they don’t listen. To show mercy when they confess and ask forgiveness. Ultimately, Jesus advocated that all relationships can and should be reconciled, but reconciliation always involves two or more parties coming together to make things right. While forgiveness may take only one party, reconciliation takes two. For Jesus, reconciliation always requires varying degrees of confrontation, repentance, mercy and forgiveness. When those are avoided or passed over, true reconciliation simply cannot happen.
Consider: Matthew 4:17; 5:23-26;6:9-15; and 18:12-35.
10. Creative Prophetic Re-imagination
Transformational change happens best through creative re-imagination and this often happens by seeing life through the lens of a story.
For Jesus, this meant using the power of stories (or parables) to confront unhealthy and unjust mindsets, perspectives and behaviors that had become normalized, as well as to compel people to consider new mindsets, perspectives and behaviors that may be far better, far more hopeful and deeply rooted in the purposes of God. Stories have a personable quality to them that direct instruction doesn’t. The stories he used involved events, places and people that 1st century Jewish people would have identified with closely. Throughout Jesus’ public ministry career, he used stories to confront harmful stereotypes, unjust religious practices and abusive controlling leadership. But as he did this, he also invited both the spiritual leadership and the people into a new way of living, hoping and sharing in the community of God.
Consider: Matthew chapters 12-25; Mark chapter 4; Luke chapters 8-11 and 14-21.
What do you think? Which views would you have added that Peter didn’t mention? Which political views did Peter include that you wouldn’t include either because they’re not important to you or because you disagree that they were ever political views of Jesus to begin with? Of the political views you believe Jesus had, how does your knowledge and understanding of those affect your own political views and the way you live out your faith in Jesus in our political landscape today?