Preaching Jesus in a politically-charged climate.
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'Jesus is Lord': Can we not preach politically?
The question gets asked often in preaching circles: should we preach politics?
"Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:3). This was the confession of the early church. Given that the popular notions of Lordship were only attributed to Caesar at the time with the saying "Caesar is Lord," one can quickly see that the very confession of the church was political in nature. The reign of God always has been political. One cannot read the Prophets—Isaiah in particular—without recognizing political overtones. Isaiah boldly foresees the reign of Jesus: "Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne …" (9:12).
Should we preach politics? Can anyone actually say the phrase "Jesus is Lord" and, with a straight face, say the gospel has nothing to do with politics? In a sense, all gospel preaching is politics. Gospel preaching holds up a different Lord. It preaches an alternative administration. It proclaims that a new kingdom is present. In fact, as Michael Green has pointed out in his book Evangelism in the Early Church, this is why primitive Christianity was as despised as it was in the first-century. Green reminds us that the Roman world held that everyone was to give homage and faithful worship to the state religion (called religio). With that in place, people could have whatever personal superstitions they wished (called superstitio). For the Romans, your personal superstitions were fine as long as you kept them to yourself and didn't rock the Roman boat.
A remnant of this kind of thinking is still prevalent in today's Western world. For example, the church is a non-profit organization. As such, it is illegal for a non-profit organization to take monies and then simultaneously advocate for ballots or candidates from the pulpit. While some Christians have fought against this in what has been called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," it should be understood as a footnote on the old Roman notion of religio and superstitio. "What is true for you may be true for you," the spirit of Rome says, "… just keep it to yourself and out of the affairs of politics."
The problem is that the Christian belief in the gospel cannot not affect our understanding of politics. Sadly, there is a kind of cultural hypocrisy around Christians entering the political conversation. It is fine and dandy for anyone to do politics so long as it doesn't actually find its grounding in one's faith. One remembers that famous story when Mahatma Gandhi told his preacher friend E. Stanley Jones, "Don't attempt to propagate your faith; just live it. Be like the rose, which, without a word, silently exudes its perfume and attracts the attention of the people." Jones's response was timely and important: he reminded Gandhi that he was the greatest propagator his own beliefs on independence and freedom from British rule. Why, he asked, was it okay for Gandhi to preach politics but Jones wasn't?