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Let the love of Jesus rule

The politics of Jesus

“We are faced with the real challenge of seeking to love our neighbor as ourselves,” says the Rev. Paul Perez as the country moves into the future following the love of Jesus.

PAUL PEREZ
Director of Connectional Ministries

We have just come through a historic election — historic voter turnout, the historic election of Kamala Harris as Vice President, and historic political polarization all in the midst of a historic pandemic.

A moment of personal confession: I have never been one for electoral politics. Don’t get me wrong, I vote. Since turning 18, I have voted in nearly every election I could. But I have just never been excited by the “politics of personality” surrounding runs for public office, especially the presidency. 

There is a certain “messiah complex” to campaigns seeking the highest office of the land. Only this candidate and their party have the answers to lead us into a bold future, protect our way of life, and/or fix the most complex problems of the day. The danger is unquestioned, uncritical allegiance to one’s candidate and party and the demonization of the other candidate and party. I believe this is at the heart of much of our current political polarization.

Christians are particularly vulnerable to this type of thinking. We, after all, worship a messiah and are devoted to a person – Jesus Christ. We, who identify as Christians, have a particular responsibility to critique this thinking and honestly admit when we perpetuate it.

What does this look like? For me, it is both actively resisting President Trump’s false claims about a stolen election and committing to holding President-elect Biden true to the promises he made to the Black community, immigrants, workers, and the Earth. Neither candidate nor party has everything right or is beyond criticism.

Whether we celebrate or grieve the election results — as Christians, we must remember: no political party will save us. No politician will save us. There is only one savior, Jesus Christ. 

Whether we celebrate or grieve the election results — as Christians, we must remember: no political party will save us. No politician will save us. There is only one savior, Jesus Christ. 

 

Jesus’ salvation, for me, is not just a private affair. It is about more than just the eternal fate of our individual souls. It is about abundant life in the here and now and the well-being of all of creation. United Methodist Theologian John Cobb describes a holistic salvation in which Jesus seeks, forgives, heals, and liberates. I love this definition of salvation and believe it captures the rich biblical witness. As Christians, who follow Jesus and witness to the “good news” of his holistic salvation, we must be concerned with the politics of our historical moment. Jesus’ seeking, saving, healing, and liberating gospel is the “messianic politics” that should be our focus. God knows we need it.

We need to follow Jesus’ seeking love. Jesus, during his ministry, sought the least, the last, and the lost. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, continues to seek. Each and everyone one of us has a story of being sought and found by Jesus. In this time of deep division, insolation, and alienation, we need the love that seeks us and challenges us to seek each other. Case in point, the city I live in went 49% for Trump and 51% for Biden. We are faced with the real challenge of seeking to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We need to follow Jesus’ forgiving love. We all get it wrong, fall short, and fail. For me, if there has ever been a “big tent” or “generous orthodoxy,” it is grounded in the truth that each one of us stands under God’s gracious canopy of honest judgment, invitation to repentance, and the gift of forgiveness. None of us is 100% right. Who we vote for or what church we go to, or what good causes we donate to do not automatically absolve us. Even in his most agonizing moment, Jesus cried, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We are in constant need of that forgiving love. We are constantly challenged to witness and offer that forgiving love.

We need to follow Jesus’ healing love. Healing was a central part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was particularly attentive and responsive to people who were harmed, hurting, and in pain. His healing was both personal and social, restoring the broken relationship of those forced to the margins and cut off from their communities. Jesus invites us to hear how all of creation groans for healing. Our challenge, in the midst of a culture that does not value vulnerability and allow room for lament, is to acknowledge and lean into those hurting places and to proclaim and enact Jesus’ healing love. 

 

Jesus, during his ministry, sought the least, the last, and the lost. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, continues to seek.

 

We need to follow Jesus’ liberating love. Jesus confronted the powers and principalities, embodied in the Roman Empire, that exploited and oppressed his people. Jesus was executed as a political criminal and revolutionary. Jesus still takes the side of the oppressed in their struggles for liberation today. Jesus’ freedom fight is for both a freedom from oppressive systems like white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, militarism, and economic and environmental  exploitation and a freedom to boldly imagine and attempt new, better ways of living together. He challenges us to confront and dismantle the embodiments of the powers and principalities. He calls us to join him in the struggle. 

I close with this prayer, entitled “For Our Country,”  written by Toyohiko Kagawa, a Christian leader, evangelist, and pacifist who spoke out against the militaristic policies of imperial Japan during the 1930s and ’40s. In Kagawa’s words, I hear my own fears and hopes and desires.

O God, keep our whole country under your protection. Wipe out sin from this land; lift it up from the depths of sorrow, O Lord, our shining light. Save us from deep grief and misfortune, Lord of all nations. Bless us with your wisdom so that the poor may not be oppressed, and the rich may not be oppressors. Make this a nation having no ruler except God, a nation having no authority but that of Love. Amen.