By Evan Johnson
In the last days of Jesus' life, Pilate asks him where he is from. Jesus doesn't answer. Pilate, shocked that someone would even passively refuse the demands of a Roman governor asks, "do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" Jesus responds, "you would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above." Pilate asks Jesus where he is from but instead learns where his authority comes from. Now, we don't know if this scared Pilate, or if he just thought Jesus was crazy. Either way, he did not deem the man worthy of crucifixion. Scripture says that from that point on he tried to change the Jewish leaders' minds.
Jesus kept one thing at the center: the Gospel. His answer pointed back to God. Even though he initially defies Pilate in his silence, he knows the will of God and is not going to obstruct it. This is the same Jesus who told his followers to pay taxes, not because he fears Roman authority (as he defies it later by not answering Pilate's questions). They are to pay taxes so as to not give anyone, including the government, reason to doubt their salvation. Later in Acts, Paul uses his Roman citizenship to keep from being crucified, not because he fears for his life, but because he wants to continue to preach the Gospel. William Wilberforce, a British politician, was moved to launch a campaign against the transatlantic slave trade because he believed that all people were created in the image of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, sought to fight Hitler's doctrinal overhaul of German churches during the 1930s but not because he was clinging to polity and liturgy. He saw evil rising in the world and knew that the goodness of Christ stood in direct opposition to it.
There is no shortage of examples of people throughout history who, moved by their Christian convictions, fought for change in their political arenas. At the same time, there is no shortage of Scripture instructing Christians to submit to authorities. What, then, is the correct response to political authority that stands in direct contrast to biblical principles?
- GET INVOLVED. A Christian that is apathetic to the political system allows for the system to be apathetic towards Christians. Keep track of elections that are happening in the near future, especially the small and local ones such as City Council. Join a social movement. Join a political party. Run for office. If a cause stirs your heart, be its conduit for change.
- PRAY FOR YOUR LEADERS. Regardless of your political persuasion, take time to pray for those who represent you on the international stage as well as in City Hall. They need it just like the rest of us.
- DISAGREE WELL. I saved this one for last for a reason. Especially in politics, it is important for Christians to be ready to turn the other cheek because there will be those even within our own churches that we disagree with politically. The heart of the Christian is a passionate one, but it is not without mercy and grace.
We know it, but we need reminding that political parties don't save us from hell. Jesus does. At the end of the day, the one constant is God, and having that at the center of everything we do is essential.