Watch almost any political ad and you will hear messianic type promises. The ad will point out some problem that they identify as THE problem that has to be solved if humanity is going to go on in America. They will then share how the candidate that is being promoted is the true hope if our most significant problem is to be fixed, while the opponent is the Anti-Christ incarnate as it relates to that problem. In a way they are saying, “Vote for me and I will be the messiah sent to Washington to fix your problems.”
I find it funny that the last two Presidents actually ran on very messianic type platforms, but from differing perspectives. George W. Bush represented a political messiah to the conservative-religious based segment of the voting public. We needed someone to deliver us from the moral malaise created by the Clinton years, and Bush is the answer. He was elected and it didn’t take long for people to be disgruntled and frustrated, because the immediate change did not come, but terrorism and war did. Then Obama arose and his slogans were “Change” and “Hope”. He was the new political messiah who would deliver us from the Bush days. Yet, it was not long until the economics went so far south and our current President’s approval rating dropped with the housing market. Let me be clear here, I am not actually criticizing these men. But I am encouraging you to listen carefully and notice that every candidate and every party is trying to promote themselves as some sort of messiah, a rescuer who can solve our problems and make the world right.
The danger is that once we embrace this on any level, once we accept any concept of a messiah other than Jesus, we will quickly fall into some other very dangerous errors. First, we will begin to believe that the real problem is an external problem. We think that if we can elect a person who will fix the economy, who will end abortion, who will legislate a position on gay marriage, who will solve crime, who will fix education… then all will be right in the world. You fill in the blank here, because I guarantee you that somewhere in your view of the world you tend to believe the real problem is something that is external, and if only the right person could be elected that person could fix the external problem. The Bible is clear though, the problem in our world is not external, it is internal. Our hearts are deceptively wicked, we are sinners who have rebelled against God, and we are disconnected from our Creator. No politician, political party, or social platform can fix that problem.
Second, we will begin to believe that Jesus would actually choose our candidate too. I’ve seen the signs and bumper stickers. “Jesus would vote Republican!” Really? Is he registered? “God says, ‘Vote Pro-Life.’” That one really freaks me out because this is putting something in the mouth of God that is not in the Bible, and therefore is denying the truth and warning in Revelation 22:18-19. The point here is that we will look at the political positions we hold believing they are the most important, and then proclaim that our position is God’s position, so our candidate must be the one that God is for.
As we do this, we will gradually be shaped by these things and will begin to alter our understanding of Jesus so that he fits the type of Messiah for which we are looking. If we believe that the problem is economics, and we begin searching for an economic messiah, we will begin to recreate a Jesus who was primarily an economic Savior who gives us everything we want. If we believe education is the problem, Jesus will be nothing more than the great philosopher and teacher. If we believe our greatest need is social justice we can so focus Jesus’ care of the poor but totally neglect what he has to say about personal sin and holiness. If we think the problem is primarily moral issues like abortion and gay marriage, then we will find all the verses about sin, judgment, and holiness while we deny the core of teaching showing Jesus amazing compassion to broken, poor, and fallen people. In all these cases, we unwittingly change Jesus’ true identity to fit our idea of what the messiah should be.
The next step then, is that we become totally blind to the idolatry and sin held by people that are in the same political camp that we reside. We can clearly see the other camp’s sin, their idolatry, their failure. And it becomes so easy to identify that side as the enemy. But we cannot see the holes in our political stands, and the sinful positions and values that our party holds. But they are there. Every system of the world is filled with worldly and sinful values. Think about it. Consider the political party with which you tend to side. When was the last time you took an honest look at the political positions, values, platforms of your side with a desire to examine all of their positions through the lense of Scripture? Where does your party fail to value people as image-bearers of God? Where do they fail at social justice, or support an immoral position. How does your political party express greed (all of them do!!!). Where do they exalt people putting them at the center of the universe and deny the Lordship of Christ! If all we do is tote the party line and exalt our candidates without examining them Biblically we are more in danger of denying Christ than we can admit.
The final thing that will happen, then, is that followers of Jesus will lose their prophetic voice in the culture. I believe this has happened for the most part in America. For the past twenty or so years in our country, the majority of Bible-believing Christianity has tied themselves so closely to one political party that they have somewhat lost their prophetic voice to the larger culture. Oh yes, Christians can speak boldly about moral issues and the faulty positions of the other side. But they have also either failed to see the sinfulness of positions held by their side, or been so afraid to speak out because of fear that their words would lead to alienation, or even worse, their candidate losing, that they have endorsed sin through silence. The result can be that eventually no one will listen. And they don’t listen because the core of our message was not “trust in Jesus, look to the cross,” rather it was, “Vote for my party and beliefs.”
Jesus showed up into a very political world. Rome ran the world, but in Israel everyone reacted to Roman rule. Rome had a plan, they wanted every culture to discard their beliefs and values and embrace the Roman way of life. This process is called Hellenism, and it was THE political issue of Jesus’ day. Every socio-religious-political party formed as a response to Hellenism. The Pharisees were the religious moralists, who believed salvation would come through a messiah who would reject Hellenism and bring the nation back to moral purity. The Sadducees where religious centrists who denied the authority of the Scriptures and did not believe in the miraculous. They were looking for a messiah that would make the Jews a great religious and economic force. The Herodians supported Herod as the king, and saw him as a messianic person, and wanted to convince the Jews that if they would support Herod he would keep the Romans at bay. The Hellenists were liberal progressives believed big-government Rome was a messiah, because they were building infrastructure like roads, theaters, aqueducts, and cathedrals. If they could just convince the rest of the Jews to embrace Hellenism, pay their taxes, and bow to Caesar every once in a while all could be right with the world. The Zealots were national extremists who believed Rome was the big problem, and all would be right if they could raise an army to kick Rome out of their country so they could put a Jewish king back on the throne. These guys were political nut-jobs who used terrorism to motivate the masses. They were looking for a military messiah who would ride into town on a white horse and give a Braveheart speech. The funny thing is that Jesus shows up, and each group goes to check Jesus out, and for a moment each group wonders if Jesus will be the messiah to champion their cause. The Pharisees are all into Jesus until he is hanging out with moral misfits. The Hellenists get irked with his view of taxes. The Zealots inspire crowds why try to make Jesus king by force, but Jesus walks away. And Jesus calls the Sadducees out for their lousy theology. When given the opportunity to support each party, Jesus rather calls out that party’s sin, idolatry, and faulty view of the human condition. He did this because Jesus knew that the human problem was of the heart, and the only hope was his death. These political parties fought against each other like crazy, couldn’t agree on anything, often resorting to violence as they opposed those with other views. But there was one thing that they all could rally around. One political idea in which they all agreed. One thing that brought every political party in Israel together. They all wanted Jesus dead! And in some way, each political group is involved in the conspiracy, which paved the way for the only true Messiah to give His life for our real problem.
So what do we do with this on November 6? We vote, it is a stewardship of the freedom given to us by God. But we don’t hope in a candidate to save us, or to be any sort of messiah. As a believer in Jesus we only have one King, and one hope for the solution to our problems and those of the World. And our primary message is Him, not our political positions. God bless.