Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jesus' Suicide Politicians

Relating to Distinctives #15 and #23:

Those who believe in a future kingdom of God to come and reign on earth are clearly dissatisfied with the system as it now exists. The innocent die, the righteous are punished, wars destroy mothers and children and the masses who have power are lulled into sleep—which is probably good as well, for the masses would only enact greater injustices than their leaders do. Yet many leaders of governmental powers are abusive, unjust and concerned only with their own position, not the good of the people or in doing what is right. God is not satisfied with injustice in the governments of the world and he has promised that injustice—especially against the poor and lowly—will be destroyed.

But there is a disagreement as to how God creates justice in the world. Some say that God is working through the wars, the court systems, and the unjust governments of the world. This is certainly true, to a degree, but Jesus was not satisfied with God working his justice through judgement and hated and killing. He established a new way of dealing with injustice, of dealing with corrupt governments. His way was based on two basic principles: 1. That God destroys rulers and governments that display injustice against the poor and lowly (Psalm 37, 82). 2. God will place in political power those who show themselves to be lowly and righteous before him (I Samuel 2:7-9; Matthew 5:3-12). Jesus summarizes it like this: Those who exalt themselves will be cast down, while those who lower themselves will be raised up (Luke 14:11). Jesus provided an example of enacting God’s justice through becoming lowly against the world’s injustice—through the cross.

Although Jesus’ example is the greatest, he also invited all of those who followed him to participate in the same upside-down justice. The way of the cross is open to all who wish to follow Jesus. But how does one cause the governments of the world to topple by sacrificing oneself?

Making oneself odious to the ruling class
Jesus made himself unacceptable to those who ruled by doing God’s will publicly, thus displaying the government to be unjust and oppressive. He healed those who were rejected by “acceptable” society—proving that they were accepted by God. He opposed some of the laws and rules placed upon the populace by political wannabes that were unmerciful to the hungry and needy (Mark 7:1-9; Matthew 12:1-13). Jesus also proclaimed that the government of the people of God was soon to pass away, and be replaced by God’s direct rule (Mark 12:1-9). Then Jesus made vague references to the destruction of the temple, the center of the government’s power (John 2:19). All of this together, made Jesus dangerous in the eyes of the government and to the ruling class in general.

Jesus also established his disciples to be people who would be on the government’s “most wanted” list. He told his disciples to go out to every town, declaring that the current government would be replaced by God’s righteous one (Luke 9:2). He taught them to accept those whom the government found unacceptable (Mark 2:17). And he laid out in detail the faults and injustices of the ruling class (Mark 7:1-9; Matthew 23). Jesus sent out his disciples prepared to be rejected by the world.

Response to Persecution
Jesus was hated by all the ruling political parties—Sadducees, priests, Pharisees and the intellegencia of the ruling governments—scribes and lawyers. They spoke publicly against him, attempted to make him look bad in the midst of those who he was teaching and made plots to kill him (Matthew 12:14, 24, 38). He was eventually arrested, tried, tortured, and killed for treason (Mark 14-15). But he knew ahead of time that all of this would happen, and he planned for it, even desired it (Mark 8:31-33; 9:31-32). And when it happened, he did not resist, but allowed the plot against him to unfold just as planned by his enemies.

Even so, Jesus promised his people that they would be hated and persecuted and killed, even as he was (Matthew 10:24-25; John 15:18-20). In the midst of this, he told them, respond as he responded. Don’t be afraid of the persecution or those who can torture you, but rather accept the fact that you will have to possibly die for the message of Jesus (Matthew 10:28; Mark 8:35-38). He told them not to fight against those who punish them unjustly, but to respond to them with good—blessings and prayers (Matthew 5:38-48). If persecuted in a town, the disciples may flee, but there will come a time when each of them will be killed for the message they carry (Matthew 10:23; Mark 10:39). In this way, the disciples remain innocent, and all evil done is on the side of the oppressor.

God’s response
Jesus cried out to God for deliverance from the oppression he was facing (Mark 14:32-39). He was willing to face the death and shame, but he saw it for the evil it was. But rather than taking action himself in vengeance for the crimes done against him, an innocent man, he relied on God, and God’s justice enacted by God’s hand alone (Matthew 26:52-53). And God came through—even though Jesus had to face shame, suffering and a horrendous death, after he was done with all that, God raised Jesus from the dead. This indicated not only Jesus’ innocence, but his authority over those who had oppressed him.

Even so, Jesus told his followers that if they suffer as he suffered, then they too would gain not only resurrection, but political authority over those who had oppressed them (Luke 6:20-26; Mark 8:35; Luke 22:28-30). But for the disciples to gain this justice, they have to cry out to God day and night, asking him for release from oppression (Luke 18:1-8). In this way, the foundation is laid and God is free to respond in his own way against true oppressors of the poor and lowly.

Successful politics
The way of the cross seems na├»ve and foolish to almost everyone involved in politics, whether Christian or not. But it must be remembered that some of the most successful politicians in the twentieth century accepted this same pattern of political thought—Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Stephen Beko. These followed the pattern of Jesus, and took him as their political guide. The only difference between Jesus and these politicians is that they were looking for deliverance from the world they lived in—their own people, their own governments. Jesus, on the other hand, looked for deliverance only from God—and because of this, he proved to be the most successful politician of all time.

Oppressors shall be cast down by God;
God will exalt those who sacrifice themselves for His sake.

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