Would Jesus vote? For whom would Jesus vote this year? Assuming Jesus could vote how would he cast his ballot? Would he choose a party, the best one available in his mind and let its platform determine electoral choices? Would he choose the best candidate(s) whose views and way of life most clearly reflect his own, and then lend support? Or would he remain independent since he is, after all, Lord? Or would Jesus even participate? Would the inability of any one party and any one candidate to reflect his concerns fully or adequately prompt Jesus to opt out?
I don’t know. If I’m reading Jesus’ story well, however, and all the more if I am entering into his story, as he calls us all to do, I am quite sure that Jesus would approach the questions above, and many others like them, in ways that frustrate and confuse, and perhaps anger folks, even or especially his own. Let me suggest why.
Jesus’ message, in the nutshell the Gospels provide for us, is this: The time has come—Kingdom Time—when God’s Kingdom is breaking into our world which is already full of its own kingdoms, cultures and societies. And the only response that makes sense is to turn from all rival kings and their kingdoms to welcome and embrace God’s Kingdom.
In a world organized into kingdoms, large and small, Jesus came to bring another Kingdom altogether. To be sure, Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. By which, he did not mean that his Kingdom had nothing to do with this world, or would operate without interacting with and counteracting the powers and arrangements at work in the world. Quite the contrary, everything Jesus said seemed to have relevance for every sphere and dimension of people’s this worldly life-experience. Indeed, at his trial he tells the power-people that the time will come when all will see Jesus enthroned. For this “blasphemy” and “treason” they condemned him. No, everyone understood that Jesus’ Kingship and Kingdom has everything to do with everything, and posed a profound threat to all power arrangements that work in the world.
When Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, he was suggesting that his Kingdom does not come from the world’s systems, does not depend on this world’s wisdom and power, and does not work the way other kingdoms of the world work. Jesus’ Kingdom claims the world: the Revelation celebrates the fact that the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall rule for ever. He shall rule everything forever. That reality Jesus announced as beginning in his own life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus would, I think, participate in the electoral process, but in Kingdom ways. He would not expect that one candidate makes or breaks the most important matters we and he face. He would not expect that any one political party or coalition of parties could serve adequately the full reign of what he intends to do in our world. And, he would insist that his Kingdom and especially his Kingdom-ways—the way his Kingdom works—trumps every agenda and platform on offer.
Jesus would vote, I think. He would participate in a process where people make choices about how their lives will be ordered. Yet, Jesus could not commit absolutely to any one nation or coalition of nations, because his Kingdom is over all. Perhaps it is better to say, that Jesus commits absolutely to what is and will be best for all nations, peoples, tribes, cultures etc. What’s good for one nation must be weighed against what’s good for all nations. What protects the interest of one people must connect well and coordinate with what protects the interest of all peoples.
I use the word “people” here on purpose. Jesus, along with the movement of people that began to follow him, had profound interest in people and people-groups, but relatively low interest in the governments of nations. Our President of the United States pledges to protect our interests and guard our way of life. When push comes to shove, the President will always do what is best for us, even when there will be collateral damage to others. That is simply the way government works in the U.S. and everywhere else. That, however, is simply not the way Jesus works. I am sure you feel the confusion, frustration and perhaps anger this creates.
Jesus would vote and would participate in our electoral process, I think. But he would do so as an expression of his larger and deeper pursuits of his Kingdom. Or, to rephrase, Jesus would pursue the advance of his Kingdom, in the way his Kingdom works, and participate in our electoral process in ways compatible with his Kingdom pursuits.
I am trying to think and pray through what this means. We have much teaching about his Kingdom and how it works. In the course of that teaching Jesus calls us to enter his Kingdom, to follow him in pursuing the rule of God in his way. This involves dying and rising from death, literally for him and in some sense also for us who follow. And, Jesus instructs us to pray that his Kingdom would come, by which meant “come to earth” in fullness, as the next explanatory petition makes clear—let your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
In a coming post I want to offer a voting guide that comports with a Kingdom priority. For now, however, I suggest that we begin best by reflecting on the things most central and urgent to Jesus’ Kingdom-way. Such reflection can help us participate in the electoral process as an expression of Kingdom-pursuit. I mention several of these central and urgent matters.
Jesus came for, died for, and seeks the well-being of all people. His concern is not only or exclusively or even uniquely with our people. Rather, he came and sets up rule for all people. Of course, our electoral processes have a much more narrow and limited scope. Even so, we follow Jesus and are seeking first his right ways. What is best for the whole world and for all people assumes priority over what is best for one nation and its people, it would seem.
Jesus cares about the poor, abandoned, and the broken. His Kingdom is good news especially for the poor in all the ways people can be poor.
Jesus came to bring peace all the way around, certainly not least among and between the peoples of the world. Forgiveness and reconciliation rank high on the agenda. Enemies can become friends. Ultimately, evil will suffer defeat at the hands of good, not when out matched by a greater evil. This does not mean, necessarily, that force can never be used. It would not require passivity or pacifist responses in the face of what harms and injures others. But it does mean relinquishing the sword as symbol for our way of life. Living that way means dying that way, our King has said.
Jesus called us to love with our all, even to the sacrifice of all as occasion demands. Sacrifice is for the sake of others, for the sake of those without, those in peril, those otherwise left out. I do not know how this might govern matters of state. But I am resisting the impulse to conclude that loving sacrifice is only for religious or spiritual dimensions of life.
And Jesus summed up much of the Kingdom way by calling his people to do for and to others what we want them to do to and for us. In our treatment of people, people-groups, issues, social dilemmas and their resolution, a Kingdom people will prioritize “doing unto others … .”