According to the Federal Election Commission, more than 470 people are running for president of the United States in 2016. You’re probably aware of the remaining two Democrats and three Republicans. But what about the other 465? There’s …
- Tami Stainfield who represents “No Party” and speaks in tongues.
- Pogo Allen-Reese, also known as “Patriot Prancer.” He’s a former male stripper whose campaign slogan is “You judge a man by the content of his character, instead of the color of his costume.”
- Tiffani Mims. When asked what qualified her to run for president, responding by pointing to her experience in the Theta Mu Math Club in high school.
If none of the 470 candidates appeal to you, don’t forget that Kanye West announced last year that he would run in 2020.
To everyone except political junkies, presidential election years have all the charm of an extended toothache.
The Economist magazine estimates that presidential candidates and super-PACS will spend more than $5 billion dollars in the 2016 election. That’s $5 billion dollars of used to carpet bomb you with advertising.
All the shenanigans aside, if Jesus were invited to the Oval Office on January 20, 2017, what would he say to the next president?
Here’s our temptation: we think he would say what we believe about politics. Democrats or Republicans, Libertarians or Green Party — we believe Jesus would hold to our views. However, there are many political hot buttons Jesus never addressed:
- Jesus never said anything about what size government should be.
- Jesus never voiced an opinion about how to regulate the economic markets.
- Jesus never argued for or against the Keystone Pipeline or mandatory background checks to purchase a firearm.
That doesn’t mean he never said anything political. In fact, he had much to say to the religious and political leaders of his day.
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. 8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. — Matthew 23:1-12
Based on this passage, what would Jesus say to the next President?
1. There is a God and you are not him.
Does the President have more influence than a plumber? Of course, he does! Every day the President makes decisions that impact millions of people.
That kind of power can be intoxicating. That has always been true about political power. The more you have, the more intoxicating it becomes. That’s why Jesus is quick to remind his listeners that there is only one true Teacher, only one Father in heaven, and only one Messiah.
I believe Jesus would ask the President the same question God once asked Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4).
To run for President requires a certain amount of self-confidence. Jesus doesn’t condemn self-confidence; self-exaltation is a different matter: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” The Proverb writer would say it this way, “Pride comes before a fall.”
2. Practice what you preach.
Mr. President, don’t say one thing and then do another. Live and lead with integrity. It’s what we teach our children.
3. As the most powerful person in the free world, lead by example: Serve others.
Pesky Jesus, throughout his ministry he was constantly redefining things. One of the things he redefined was the meaning of greatness.
People in the first century defined greatness the same way many people in the twenty-first century do: greatness is a matter of position and power. Not so, says Jesus. “The greatest among you will be your servant.”
It’s not about having people to do things for you; it’s about what you are doing for other people.
Those are three things Jesus would say to our next President. But what would Jesus say to his followers about our next President?
We often refer to a party’s nominee as its “standard-bearer,” a term for a leader who carries the flag, or standard, on behalf of a larger group. The term came about during the Civil War, when flags were carried into battle so soldiers could see where they should go. In those days, it was a heroic and dangerous role.
Being a standard-bearer is a burden, but it’s a burden that we carry. But we don’t carry the flag of a particular party. We are standard-bearers for Jesus.
In every generation the church has had the responsibility of representing Jesus. No small task. Indeed, it is a heavy burden. So, let me close with a few reminders from Pastor Brian Zahnd.
- The fate of the kingdom of God does not depend upon political contests. Jesus will still be Lord no matter who wins.
- Political parties are more interested in Christian votes than they are in Christian values.
- The bottom line for political parties is power. The bottom line for a Christian is love. Therein lies the rub.
- If your political passion makes it hard for you to love your neighbor as yourself, you need to turn it down a notch.
- Your task is to bring the salt of Christian civility to an ugly political process. We are to contribute to the redemption of the political process, not be contaminated by it.
- Exercise your liberty to vote your conscience and conviction, while accepting that other Christians will do the same and vote differently than you. This is true and doesn’t make them bad people. You simply have to accept it.
Finally, what would Jesus say to his church?
I believe he would tell us that, while the United States of America is a great country, it is not the last, great hope of the world — he is.
There is an old hymn I grew up singing that is a fitting reminder as we go through this election cycle:
“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame; but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”