I met a very interesting person the other day. I was in a Bojangles (yuck) with my students in Virginia on the way back home to the Outer Banks after a weekend evangelism conference. The man immediately caught the attention of my wife. He sat by himself at a table behind us wearing a three-piece suit, a fedora, and a bow tie. But neither his clothing nor his epic mustache caught Carmen’s attention…it was his Republican elephant cuff links that drew her eye. She pointed him out and I thought to myself, “This will be fun!” I had to engage the man in conversation. I walked over to his table and shot from the hip:
“You wouldn’t happen to be a Republican, would you?” I said.
“What makes you say that? Oh, you like my cuff links, huh?” He replied.
“They certainly are interesting.”
Thus began our conversation, the goal of which was for me to transition from politics to the gospel by speaking about hope. We got there quickly:
“Are you a Republican?” the man asked.
“No sir. But I’m not a democrat either. I believe that the answer to the world’s problems lies with the gospel rather than with a political party.”
The rest of the conversation proceeded peacefully, believe it or not, as he agreed (initially) with my stance. We parted ways as I once again joined my students to finish lunch. As we each wrapped up our meal and the man began to prepare to leave, he beckoned me to return to our conversation with the wave of a hand. I obliged. He asked me about my job, my education, and my ministry on the Outer Banks. It was pleasant. And then he dropped the bomb. The one that has boggled my mind for a month now. He began to proselytize:
“I’m a Christian like you. In fact, I like to say that if Jesus walked the earth today, he would certainly be a Republican and he would drive around a Suburban with all his disciples inside.”
I fumbled around for words. I fought back a myriad of emotions, including incredulity and what I think might have been rage. Everything in me began to prepare to mount my defensive attack. My wife visibly cringed at what she knew was coming next. By God’s grace and to His everlasting glory, I managed to bite my tongue and simply wish the man a happy afternoon and safe travels.
But the comment still plagues me. The fact that someone would make such a statement grieves me to a great degree and it reveals a deep misunderstanding of Jesus and the gospel in my southern conservative culture. But this is by no means a new system of belief.
The Jews misunderstood what kind of king the Messiah would be. For centuries, Israel awaited a king. They awaited political freedom. When Jesus hit the scene as a baby, the Israelites were subject to the tyranny of the Roman government. They understood the Messiah to be some charismatic political redeemer. Some sort of true and better William Wallace, perhaps. They anticipated a Savior for a nation rather than the Savior of the nations! Thus, when Jesus entered Jerusalem in John 12, the people praised their “king,” certain that he would provide freedom from the tyranny of oppression.
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:10)
Jesus did come to usher in a new kingdom; but his was not a kingdom comprised of human government. He came to usher in the kingdom of heaven. He explained in Matthew 10:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (Matthew 10:34)
Jesus brought a sword, all right. But his sword divided those who followed him and those who followed man. His kingdom liberates humanity from the oppression of sin and death! The Israelites expected a kingdom that would liberate them from the Romans. They had a shortsighted fantasy. The Jews awaited the day when a Messiah would come to liberate his people from the EFFECTS of sin (i.e. a wicked government and oppression). Jesus offers much more! He offers freedom from sin itself! See, a political Messiah would not provide an everlasting solution; the problem would inevitably re-arise, as sinful man would continue to rise into positions of leadership. Political freedom was not the answer the world needed. Not for the Israelites 2,000 years ago and not for the rest of the world today. The hope of the world rests in this Messiah and his Good News! His kingdom stands forever, because it offers freedom from ourselves! It offers a better hope. A hope that rests on the eternal perfection of Jesus Christ rather than on the efforts of sinful man. This is indeed good news.
To suppose that Jesus would belong to any political party is not only absurd…it is obscene! It strips Jesus of his transcendence and places him under the same limitations that plague humanity. But Jesus is alive and he sits on the throne of heaven! He is in control. Jesus provides an answer far better than a political party led by sinful men and women. To worship a “Republican Jesus” or a “Democratic Jesus” is to form God into the image of man rather than the other way around. It is an attempt to limit Jesus to what we deem acceptable or right. But, like I said, his kingdom is better. His ways are higher. His answer goes far beyond economic policy and civil rights. Jesus would not stand for the wickedness that is on display in each of the parties. It is arrogant to assume that Jesus would fit inside the boundaries of our political preferences. Let’s stop trying to mold Jesus into our image and bow down to worship him for who he is: the perfect image of the invisible, transcendent God Almighty.
Jesus is certainly not the property of the Republican party. He is no elephant. He cares everyone, including the poor.
Jesus certainly does not stand in congruence with the democratic party. He rode on a donkey; he does not bow down to one.
Jesus stands above. His answer is higher! His solution is better! He represents the party of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!
Sign me up for the Lion Party! Who’s with me?