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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Would Jesus Vote?

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"My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
- John 18:36 (NET)

As a citizen of a defeated and occupied nation, neither Jesus nor any of his fellow Jews had the right to vote (nor, for that matter, could Roman citizens of the time, since there were no elections as we know them). But had he had the right to cast a ballot for a Roman emperor or a Judean governor, would he have exercised it?

It is clear that the kingdom for which Jesus campaigned throughout his ministry was far, far grander than any in human history. It was one that knew no boundaries and that was to be ruled by God's chosen "Prince of Peace":

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
     but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
- Isaiah 11:1-9 (NIV)

Early followers of Jesus saw themselves first and foremost as reborn citizens of that kingdom. As such they were mere "resident aliens" in the Roman empire, with each congregation being a kind of foreign embassy.

How would faithful members of this kind of messianic movement today relate to the nation in which they have their (secondary) citizenship?

1) Like Jesus, they would not identify themselves primarily with the latest political party or movement, whether Zealot, Essene, Democratic, Republican or Libertarian.

2) Like Jesus, they would speak fearlessly to and about the Pilates and Herods of their day, but would neither be disrespectful of them nor seek to overthrow them by force.

3) Like Jesus, they would concentrate on radically promoting the values and visions of the future rather than on preserving the values of the past or the status quo of the present.

Whether Jesus would have actually cast a vote as a legal resident of Rome or of Judea had he had that option remains a good question.

But rather than it being a $64,000 question, perhaps we should think of it as more like a $6.40 question, not unimportant, but not all-important in the larger scheme of things. In itself a vote may not be an instrument of much change. Tallied with many, many others, it may sometimes make some difference, or even a significant difference (check this link for one example). Nevertheless, it is not the essence of what either our U.S. or our Kingdom citizenship is all about .

What followers of Jesus are all about is faithfully using their voice and exerting their influence year round, wherever they go, exercising the power of prayer and persuasion in promoting the everlasting, worldwide movement to which they most truly belong.

"May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That's our daily prayer and pledge.
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