Christ and Politics

Many Christians take part in politics. They do so with an honest desire to advance the cause of righteousness, and to promote the well-being of their fellow-men. Such might do well to consider how Christ Himself dealt with the issue.

   The lifetime of Christ on earth was an era of great political agitation. Judea had been annexed to the Empire of Rome, and a Roman governor represented the hated pagan power in Jerusalem. National feeling ran high. Pharisaism was watching for an opportunity to put itself at the head of an endeavour to throw off this galling yoke. Under the circumstances would it not be expected that the Lord should express His views as to the political situation, and lend the weight of His influence either to the national party, whose aims were patriotic and religious, or to the Roman party, represented by the Herodians? On one occasion, members of these two opposing parties attempted to obtain an expression of political opinion from the Lord by a cleverly framed question: “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22: 17. Would He advise them to patiently endure the Gentile yoke or to strenuously oppose it? What an opportunity for a politician: representative men of both of the leading parties in the state eagerly waiting to hear His answer! What would the great teacher advise? Would he side with the government, or counsel a movement of passive resistance? It was soon seen that the Lord Jesus had nothing to say to the politics of the day. His mission amongst men was to urge the claims of
God upon conscience and soul. So pointing to the coin used for the payment of the imperial tax, He asked “Whose [is] this image and superscription? They say to him, Caesar’s. Then he says to them, Pay then what is Caesar’s to Caesar, and what is God’s to God” (vs 20, 21). He did not speak for man or men, but for God. He was above politics. Of the patriotic party, He demanded of them subjection to the earthly power God had placed over them. Of the Roman party, He demanded that they honour the rights of God, over and above that of Caesar.

   One day the opportunity arose for him to place Himself at the head of an enthusiastic crowd bent on asserting the independence of Galilee. His power to feed five thousand men with a tiny quantity of bread and fish had so impressed the multitude that with one accord they decided He should be their leader and their king. They were even prepared to compel him by force to accept the position, but it was not for that that He had come to earth. He would not take part in the movement that was afoot: “Jesus therefore knowing that they were going to come and seize him, that they might make [him] king, departed again to the mountain himself alone” (John 6: 15). He was no politician. To serve God and to save man was his object.

   On another occasion the question of arbitration was brought up. A quarrel had arisen and the Lord Jesus was asked to act as arbitrator. Now what would
you have done under such circumstances? Would you have argued ‘Here is an opportunity for promoting peace and righteousness, and for doing good amongst men?’ Would you have consented to arbitrate? Notice that your Master refused: “Man, who established me [as] a judge or a divider over you?” (Luke 12: 14). Other and higher business was His. One may ask ‘Do you then think arbitration wrong?’ No. To arbitrate is better than to quarrel. By all means let the world settle its strifes by arbitration rather than by war. The point is that the Lord Jesus left that sort of things to others. He did not condemn arbitration, but He took no part in it. It belonged to a sphere of things outside the “Father’s business” (Luke 2: 49) - and the path that the Master trod is surely the path for the disciple.

   So which is to be? The footsteps of Christ, or the pattern of this world?