What is the role of the faithful disciple amidst the political realm?
Of the numerous theological questions that are debated, there are few that seem to be more contentious than this one. Yet it hardly stands as a new issue or one that has only been faced in our present age. It has been one that has plagued the follower of Christ since the birth of his ministry and even before, one that even threatened to draw him in.
The irony of it lies in the inherent danger that comes through the misunderstanding of the faithful and vigilant disciples place amidst this debate. Consider, for example, the life of our blessed Savior himself. Knowing the people had intended to try and crown him an earthly king he would reject the concept himself and withdraw from them. (John 6:15) Yet, when he would stand before Pontius Pilate, he would stand accused of seeking to establish for himself an earthly kingdom with himself as the sovereign over the people. (John 18:33-34)
Though Christ himself did not confuse the two, the confusion that was reaped by others, it offers to us the reason why Christ himself taught to us that we need to “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.” (Matthew 22:15-22)
You see, as with all things, it is a matter of balance. Though the church, and, at the most basic of levels, the faithful disciple need be more concerned with the Spiritual Kingdom and the welfare of the hearts and souls of all people, whereas the state need be concerned with the body and the orderly governance over it, this does not preclude the follower of Christ from participating in the civil offices of government. What it means is that though, as in all things, their character and their leadership should be an example of Christ and His love, (1 Corinthians 4:16) there is no case by which they should impose their spiritual belief on the legal ordinances that administer and preside over the citizenry.
In fact, as exemplified by Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, the three who stood by their faith even as Nebuchadnezzar sought to force them against their conscience, (Daniel 2-3) the only place of civil disobedience against the laws of men are the acts that are forced because of the overstepping of Kings and Princes and States into the Spiritual Realm when they seek to, through any means, compel us to betray our faith. As we are not to force our faith on others, seeking to compel them to live by it, so can no government seek to force us to live contrary to it by their own acts and laws.
This is vital for the disciple of Christ to remember as it gives the primary means for us to successfully utilize ourselves and our faith in our understanding of the means by which God wishes us to live. After all, as C.S. Lewis would once observe, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
Our focus, if we seek to preserve and defend the principles of love, faith, charity and grace, need be on how we, through our lives, our works and our deeds, give testimony to it. There is a fundamental difficulty with this when we focus our faith on the temporal through an earthly focus, failing to understand that Christ’s kingdom is not of this earth. Rather than being a vessel for the Spirit to win hearts and minds, we become intent on being a vessel for our own morality as a weapon to force others to live as we demand in the most self-righteous of ways.
Guided by hope and love be a force for change, for good in the world. Focus on personal charity rather than expecting government to legislate it or mandate it, focus on sharing a message of love to those who are hurt and wounded, the broken hearted and the downtrodden, rather than pushing for a law. Strengthen each other by what you have to give in hope to those around you, and let your life testify to a greater understanding of unity and peace. Each of us, on our own, through the power of the Spirit have the capacity to the greatest good for others while showing them the path to Christ, each day, rather than riling yourself up with current events, ask yourself how you might do that.
In doing this, our concern must be more for the spiritual welfare and edification of others. It must be to uplift them in the true messages of Christ, of which the primary is the freedom of the spirit and the liberty of the soul. By understanding, by living this we can do more for the truest forms of hope and change in this world.
How then, as a disciple of Christ do you see yourself doing the most good? How do you strengthen others? How do you edify them? This is our mandate and it comes from the truest authority over us, our God, as a personal calling to each of us as Christ’s followers. How will you live in it today?