Greek polis = city, hence political, “the orderly togetherness of people”
Numerous believers have been excited about the results of the recent federal elections. Like Scott Morrison they boldly proclaim the result a “miracle”, confident they can read the mind of the Lord in the political realm as easily as in the life of the Church.
Fusing politics and religion like this is hardly new. The Conservative Party in the UK were labelled for centuries, “the Church of England at prayer”. Hardly surprising then that the origins of the Labor movement can be traced to the lively faith of Methodists and Catholics, not Anglicans. Christians must not be apolitical, but neither should the Church ever line up with a political party.
This is because the Body of Christ represents something much greater than the state.
When confronted by Caesar’s representative, ““Are you the King of the Jews?””, Jesus replied, “““My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting”” (John chapter 18 verses 33, 36).
Jesus was all that Caesar pretended to be, Lord, Son of God, Saviour, but in a way Caesar could never be. Like the head of every state the emperor ruled by coercion, army, law and police, but Jesus rules in peace. The shalomof God is much more than a feeling, it’s a saving state of wholeness for the complete person (Isaiah 9:7).
Thus, when believers are told by secular authorities that the Church should care only for souls we are being lied to. The dominion of Christ cannot be reduced to the boundaries of the psyche; the privatisation and individualisation of modern times must be resisted. Jesus is “Lord of all” (Acts chapter 10 verse 36).
A New Polis
The sort of community that exists in the Body of Christ is essentially different from the community that exists in any nation state. The bonds of patriotism involve consent to cooperate for the common good in the measurable realm of material prosperity and order.
At the centre of the agreement between Christians which guides our common life is the Person of Jesus. Someone rather than something constitutes who we are in our orderly togetherness as the unique people of God. WhenAmerican Evangelicals champion Donald Trump or Australian Pentecostals extol Scott Morrison as God’s man for the hour they are as fundamentally mistaken as when the so – called “German Christians” did the same for Hitler.
They blur the boundaries between Church and State that God has irremovably set in place through the coming of his Son as ruler over all.
The Cross Tests Everything
The Church is called to act as a Body living in the freedom, peace, justice, and reconciliation that only living under the government of God can bring. The Lordship of Jesus is most marked in displaying how he lived above the coercive forces of his own day. Luther rightly said, “The cross tests puts everything to the test.”
The characteristic corruption of the political sphere is exposed only when believers live lowly lives of humility and self-sacrifice for others. Presently, the average Christian votes our votes on the basis of material or personal self-interest. Whilst largely complicit in the scandalous selfishness of worldy politics, we are called to show that the power of a crucified-and-risen Lamb will rule all things forever (Revelation chapter 5 verse 6).
His truth and love is never assertive or “influential”. The Church must recover that prophetic lifestyle that reminds the sleeping world of Jesus’ solemn promise, “Surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation chapter 22 verse 20)
The New Testament writers are relaxed about their political scene in a way that’s hard for citizens in a democracy to comprehend. They refused to claim the status of a private “club” (collegium) for the advancement of special intereststhat would have afforded them political amnesty. Even in the catacombs the Church imaged the cosmic dimensions of Christ’s Lordship over history that no national state can counterfeit.
They refused to conform to the average entitlement expectations of popular culture and were politically seditious simply by being Christ-ians. Counter-cultural holiness exposes the lie that there are spaces into which Jesus doesn’t speak.
It’s time to unmask the idols of the political world by refusing to be tantalised by the ideological promises of Right or Left. Let’s live all for,and only for,Jesus.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
John Yates’sprevious articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html