I want to say at the beginning that I hope you will read this as a heart-felt appeal and not as in-your-face challenge. Most of us know that Jesus’ call to receive the kingdom of God means we must reevaluate our culture and reject those things that do not fit with it. This is an appeal for us to examine one aspect of democratic culture in the twenty first century as we take a careful look at Jesus’ teaching. Early in my life as a disciple of Jesus, I found myself very troubled a few weeks later by the decision I made to cast a vote for someone the year I was first eligible to vote. As a young disciple, my angst caused me to turn to the gospels and to the life of Jesus wanting to learn from his example. What I found there was that Jesus came into a political hotbed. Democracy did not exist in his part of the world, but, nevertheless, politics played a key role in life and society. Nationalistic tendencies were found through Judea and eventually erupted in the Jewish war, which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d. As Jesus went about his mission of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom there were many efforts made to pull him into the worldly struggle. There were many that saw in Jesus one who could produce the political results they were hoping for. John 6:15 describes one such occasion: “ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself .” It is evident that Jesus had no intention of getting sidetracked by aligning himself with any political faction—even one that claimed to represent the nation that God had historically chosen. Jesus’ other-worldly mission ironically brought together the opposition of some strange political bedfellows who felt threatened by this teaching. In Matthew 22:16-17 we find disciples of the Pharisees forming an alliance with Herodians (even though they were normally fierce political opponents) and saying to Jesus: ” Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? ” Little did they know how right they were. He was a man of integrity. He was not swayed by men. He did pay no attention to who they are. Politics by nature involves paying a great deal of attention to who you are talking to and being willing to be swayed by the right people. Jesus was no politician. Knowing that Jesus seemed to eschew politics, they hoped he would be naive enough about the way it all worked to catch him in a political trap. Jesus, of course, was ready for them. Matthew 22:18-22 tells us: “ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away .” Had they been able to force him to take sides either for the Romans or against them, they would have used whatever position he took to accuse him. They were political animals. He was a threat to their agendas (differing as they were) and they were eager to do whatever it took to get him out of the way. I saw in passages like these that Jesus refused to align himself with any political movement. He did not try to figure out which one was less evil. He saw that they all were of this world. Perhaps Jesus clearest statement about politics and this world’s system was made in John 18:36: “ Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place .’” His kingdom was not of this world, and he did not want his disciples to use any worldly means to advance his cause. His kingdom was from another place, and he would accomplish his purposes in a way that was in accordance with that other place. My conclusion was that Jesus had ample opportunity to support political causes. He had plenty of chances to cast his “vote.” He had people urging him to join their “righteous” crusades. He could have chosen to support the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, or the Essenes, all of whom represented a distinctive political approach. He could have started his own “fifth party” and certainly there were those who hoped he would. He could have argued that the Roman Emperor was a tyrant and that people deserve to be free. He could have led a political revolution that the world would still be talking about today. He could have led a revolt that would have caused the Jews to forget all about Judas the Maccabean. But he did none of those things. Instead, he preached the good news that the Kingdom was breaking in. He condemned sin in whatever group he saw it. He put his energy into calling together a band of men and women who would be in this world but not of it. He did all kinds of things that aren’t politically expedient. He befriended tax collectors who were definitely on the wrong side politically. He traveled in politically incorrect regions and talked to inappropriate people. He shocked Peter, who was still very much caught up in the nationalistic politics of his day, by saying he was going to suffer and die in weakness in Jerusalem at the hands of the chief priest and teachers of the law. Jesus had an entirely different plan for making his mark. His kingdom was not of this world. I came away from my study convinced that Jesus would never align himself with any candidate or political party. I decided that were he with us in flesh today, he would have the same singular focus we find in the gospel accounts. The Bible is very clear about what my responsibilities are. I am to submit to the governing authorities in anything that does not violate my commitment to God (Romans 13:1-2), and I am most certainly to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2), asking that God work through what is happening with them to accomplish his purposes. I must speak out against sin when it comes from either side of the aisle or from some other source. However, in all things I must personally to be joyful, prayerful and thankful (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Being bitter, disgruntled or disrespectful is not an option. My commitment to Jesus and his church will mean I will be committed to advocating for the defenseless, meeting people’s needs and doing what I can do to protect God’s creation. At times that will mean I work side by side with those who are doing the good I want to accomplish even though they may not share my commitment to Jesus. What I must not do is yoke myself with unbelievers in political alliances that represent a mixture of ideas, some of which are quite contrary to the gospel of the Kingdom. I must not get involved in those things that distract me from my real purpose or cause me to think I should moderate my convictions to accomplish some political goal. It is never worth it. I must not be naive about the political environment. In the world of politics, those with a commitment to Biblical principles will sooner or later be called to compromise those convictions. History is littered with such people. We also need to think long and hard about something else: hard political stands and political party affiliations just close to door of the gospel to certain people. In 1980s I was asked to speak for a church in Iowa that was located near a college campus. They had made an effort to bring many student visitors in on a Saturday night. The church had a tiny student group and wanted to attract more. It just so happened that the famous Iowa “straw vote” was to be held that weekend. When I arrived at the church building I found many (if not most) of the church members wearing buttons announcing their support for a certain presidential candidate. Many of them had come to the church building directly from their political meetings. About that time I saw a student with long hair come in the door. He looked around the room. Before I got up to speak, he had left. I suspect he never got to hear about Jesus because all he could see was a certain political position that he obviously did not agree with. His opinion, I suspect, about Christians had been confirmed. When we make it known that we are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or Green Party or Tea Party members, it is hard for anyone to see past that. I recently looked back at an article I wrote about this subject in the year 2000. I asked: “Can you imagine me trying to win my friend Richard, a former Black Panther, if I were a Republican supporter (as many disciples in our fellowship are)? But Richard might have had the same reaction if I were a supporter of some other party. As I try to bring him to the cross I don’t want to anything to muddy the water.” Politics by its very nature tends to be divisive. Ten or twelve years ago we had eight disciples together at our home to celebrate a birthday. All were leaders. We were and still are all friends. The discussion turned to politics, and in just a few minutes one of the brothers was amazed at who another was planning to vote for. He was so astonished that he wanted to push the issue. My wife changed the subject and we played Pictionary. Her wisdom prevailed. Because of our very different backgrounds and races, Christians will often find that we have different leanings. One of my very good friends in Boston consistently voted for someone that many other Christians found quite repugnant and someone I was not attracted to as a leader. But he and I did not choose to focus on that. We focused instead of the fact that we all called to have a partnership in the gospel that will result in getting Jesus’ good news to as many people as possible. My experience is that the more politically active Christians become the more division results among them. When they begin to operate in a political environment, they begin to function by the rules of that world and the results are seldom godly. They almost inevitably become known more for their politics than for their spiritual convictions, or their spiritual convictions tend to take on a certain political tint. In looking over Facebook postings, I see quite a disturbing number of Christians establishing an online reputation for advocating gun rights and for speaking derogatory words against national leaders—the very leaders who we are supposed to honor (1 Peter 2:17) and pray for (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Brothers and sisters, will this draw people to the love-your-enemies/power-in-submission message of Jesus? Yes, I believe there is room for different views, but I would strongly urge us to not allow culture (aspects of our American culture or any other) to determine our conclusions. Instead, let us make it our goal to “find out what pleases the Lord” recognizing from the beginning that “God made foolish the wisdom of the world.” (1 Cor. 1:18-20). Even, if we arrive at a different point on this issue of how involved to be in political issues, let us remember that “each one should be convinced in this own mind” (Romans 14:5) and let us show respect for every thoughtful effort to find God’s will. This then is my appeal: Wherever you end up on this matter, please, let it be Jesus—and not culture, even some religious culture—that leads you there. And as you launch out into cyberspace or in the workplace, let your light shine and not your political bias. Pray people will see Jesus and love, not political policy and put downs. As you post something, pray and get input. Get discipled. I did before putting this out there and the article is better for it.