Is God a Republican or a Democrat? What does God think about our government? Does God care about politics? This is a challenging topic for so many reasons.
- There are many people who profess Christianity on different sides of the political landscape.
- We live in a media-driven political climate that has mastered the sound bite. This means that often we don’t really know what a political figure has done or believes unless we dig beyond what the popular news media have to offer.
- We live in a “loudest voice wins” culture. If you are very loud, you’re heard even if you are wrong or don’t have the best information to inform your position.
- Some political figures and parties have strategically attempted to associate themselves with Christians or Churches or one vein of Christianity.
- We have some descriptive accounts in Scripture about how the people of God responded to government, but not much prescriptive information for all people and all times.
- This is a huge topic that engages issues of war, the role of government, morality and law, pacifism, taxes, and a hoard of other issues.
- We live in a radically different political model than was experienced in Jesus’ day.
I feel, in many ways, that my journey of understanding what the Bible says about government and our response as committed followers to Jesus Christ has just begun. My understanding of God and government is still a work-in-progress. Much like the yard work I do annually. For every fence painted and bush trimmed, I realize that my yard is far from finished and will never be complete.
Let me start by sharing those things that I am confident about when it comes to God and Government:
- God is not an American, God is not a Mexican, God is not a Russian, God is not Chinese, God is neither Eastern nor Western. God is God above all creation and above all governments.
- God is not Republican, God is not Democrat, and God is not Independent. God is not part of any political party in this country or any other country.
- God is not Left nor Right.
- God is sovereign and never surprised by any political leader coming to power.
- There is no biblical equivalent throughout history for what is often called a Christian Nation, and the closest thing we have to a nation that can identify itself directly with God is the nation of Israel in the Old Testament when God directly led them.
- God cares more about people coming into a relationship with him, embracing the message of the cross and expanding his kingdom purposes than our comfort, our personal perceived rights, our political models, governmental structures, economic wellbeing, and preferences.
- You can’t legislate true morality and changed hearts.
- No follower of Jesus Christ is first an American, Brazilian, Mexican or any other nationality. Christians are first and foremost, Christians. And as Christians, we are never to wrap the Cross of Christ and our allegiance to Christ in the American Flag, Canadian Flag, Japanese Flag or any flag. I am not first an American; I am a first follower of Jesus Christ. This brings us to an important passage of Scripture.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” -John 18:36
Pilate, a political leader appointed by Rome, wanted to know if Jesus was the earthly king of the Jews. But Jesus changed the dimensions of Pilate’s understanding. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. It is from another place. Jesus’ Kingdom does not have earthly political or ethnic boundaries. Jesus is the King of kings – this trumps (not the president!) all earthly structures. Jesus’ primary message was the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven). Jesus was always more concerned about the Kingdom of God than about anything else. The Kingdom of God refers to the purposes, plans, will and perspective of God being manifested now in the world we live. What we see in Jesus’ Kingdom language is that the Kingdom of God operates in a radically different manner from the kingdoms of man, be they Democratic, Socialistic, Communist, Fascist or totalitarian kingdoms (what we call government). In the book of Luke, Jesus gives us one revolutionary difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man:
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” -Luke 22:25-27
The kings or leaders of the Gentiles (that is, all those people who are not Jewish), operate from an “over-under model” of government. The people in power lord their power over the people, whatever the kind of government. But the Kingdom of God is about servanthood, submission, and humility. The Kingdom of God often turns what we hold true on its head. The kingdom of man is ultimately about controlling behavior. But the Kingdom of God is about changing hearts, which changes behavior (True Power). It is Jesus Christ alone who ultimately changes our hearts. Through Christ, we can be transformed from the inside out.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are not of this world and our allegiance is always first and foremost to God, and to God alone. Paul writes:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. -Ephesians 2:19
At one point in our lives, each of us was a foreigner and alien to God’s Kingdom. We did not know or follow the ways of Christ crucified on the cross. But as people who now call ourselves Christians – Christ Followers – we are now citizens of a different Kingdom. We are citizens of heaven and that matters more than any earthly citizenship.
Politics are important, and as a representative democracy we have the responsibility of speaking into our government. But hope for the world never lies in any particular version (government) of the kingdoms of the world. Hope lies clearly in the Kingdom that is not of this world, the Kingdom of God that has arrived in Christ, is being expanded in us, and will reach its fruition in the New Heaven and New Earth.