The Bible actually has quite a bit to say to us about politics, about how to be a people in a foreign land. We looked at some of these ideas on Monday when we introduced the topic - pray for your leadership, submit yourself to the authorities because God has put them in place, and pray for the peace and prosperity of the land where you live, for their good is your good. (Not, we must note, "your good is their good," but their good is your good.)
But it's not just that.
We also have a witness of the entire history of God's people in which they completely misunderstood what Jesus meant when He said He was coming to be their king. We have the history of Israel under the kings she appointed for herself because she was tired of waiting on God, and we have the passion of the Jews during the lifetime of Jesus Himself.
It's no secret that they wanted to make Him their king. It's no secret that they thought He came so that they could overthrow Rome, put their Lord on the power seat, and really start changing the world into a more faithful, more just, more righteous society because finally, finally, the Jewish ethic would be in charge.
Then, of course, Jesus dies and the whole thing collapses and everyone's pretty much sure it is over - and it is, at least for those who were waiting around with a robe and a crown to put the living God incarnate on the throne of the nation-state. Jesus says plainly, in His death, that's not what He's about. He makes it clear again and again in His life that He's no political figure.
And yet, here we are, two thousand years later, trying to make Jesus our king (President) and, short of that, trying to elect Presidents that we think will rule us well because we're tired of waiting on God to give us the kind of world that we've been praying for (even though, of course, that world can never fully exist on this side of eternity).
And yet, here we are, thinking that this time, it's going to work. That this time, we're going to get it done. That now, for sure, we'll get the right guy in office and finally have Jesus running our country for us.
And yet, here we are, pretty sure that God is finally going to do this for us, that He's going to redeem America and make her a righteous nation by her politics, which would be, we have to confess, the first time He has ever done that for a nation-state. Ever.
And yet, here we are, talking like the nation-state of America is God's prize possession, His chosen nation, His preferred structure for living.
You know what the only thing God had to say to His people about the nation-state was in all of Scripture? The nation-state will take from you the allegiance that you owe to God. The nation-state will exact from you the devotion that you once reserved for God. The nation-state will rule your life in ways that God is supposed to rule your life. Everything that you set aside for God will end up going to the nation-state because that's how nation-states work.
And He was right.
And then, generations later, He sends Jesus, and the people think...now, we've got it. Now, we've got the nation-state that we always hoped for. Now, we're bringing our worship back in proper alignment. Jesus is going to be our King.
Then Jesus says, I don't want to be your King. I don't want to be the leader of your nation-state. I will not accept a royal enthroning. I want to be your Lord. I want be the leader of your life. I want to be the guider of your heart.
And He was right, too.
Yet here we are, still getting it wrong. Will the people of God ever learn?
The only thing the Bible has ever had to teach us about politics is that they aren't nearly as great nor as important as we make them and that we're setting aside so many good things of God out of hearts to make room for the broken systems we think we're finally going to fix when God Himself said that's not what He's interested in fixing. He's not out to change our world; He's out to change our hearts. He doesn't work in the nation-state; He works in the neighborhoods. He works in our homes.
Imagine how much it would change - about our lives and our politics - if we could take Him seriously on that.