Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 NLT)
One of our pastors, Jim Stephens, is using this verse in a message this weekend at our south campus on politics.
The context for this verse is Jesus standing before Pilate as the Jewish people try to get him crucified. Pilate, a government official, is trying to figure out what this guy has done and if he is guilty of what he is being accused of. Jesus’ response to Pilate is critical in our understanding and application of political engagement as Christ followers.
First, Jesus tells us where He is from. He aligns Himself, not with an earthly political system, but with a spiritual kingdom. He refuses to play the political game and, in doing so, defines for those of us who follow Him our primary alignment.
Second, he talks about his followers not fighting. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
Third, he uses the phrase “being handed over” to the political and religious system that existed in his day. This phrase denotes authority. Jesus was under the authority of the Jewish leaders. If he wasn’t, then this handing over would never have taken place. Jesus placed his life under a political system and his followers did not fight to keep that from happening.
Do you ever feel like you need to fight for Jesus being swallowed up by a political ideology or system? Do you ever think that the end result of our country going in the direction it’s going in will lead to an elimination of Jesus in every area of our society? As a result, do you take up the battle for him to not be lost in our schools, in our government buildings, in our businesses?
Do you know that nothing can eliminate Jesus and His gospel from society? Nothing. History proves it. No political system can demolish the gospel. It’s the power of God. And it didn’t survive because of Christians taking up the fight. Matter of fact, you could argue that the least effective evangelistic era for Christianity was during the Crusades.
I have a serious issue with our present political landscape in our nation. Every time I turn on the television I see conservative Christians “fighting” for Jesus and his values. What are we worried about? What if we stopped the rhetoric of division and started loving our enemies? Isn’t it possible that this would have a more influence in changing the direction of our culture than the political fighting we see today? I’ve noticed something – no one on the other side of the political table is listening anyway. They’ve tuned each other out. But it’s much more difficult to tune love out.
Let’s return to our roots. Let’s hear Jesus say to us: “Your kingdom is not an earthly one. If it was, I would have you fight for me. But it’s not of this world.”