Vote for Jesus

We’ve been looking at the book of Daniel for the past two months on Sunday mornings, and one of the repeated themes is that God’s kingdom is everlasting, while every kingdom and political leader of this world, no matter how powerful, will eventually pass away. With this perspective, you can understand why the emphasis in the Bible is not on gaining control of political power so as to change the world, but instead on being faithful to God’s kingdom, even if it means giving up worldly power and control.

Today is election day, and is therefore a good time to remind us of that reality, that our trust is not in earthly rulers and governments but in the King of Kings and His everlasting kingdom. An interesting Biblical word study is to consider how Jesus and His followers co-opted the political language of their day and gave those terms completely different meanings in order to refocus us on the true, everlasting kingdom of God (the chart below is summarized from Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President):

Imperial Language:
Basilea (“empire” or “kingdom”): Term used for the Roman Empire, with Caesar at the head

Gospel (euangelion: “good news”): An imperial pronouncement, usually accompanied by flags and political ceremony, that an heir to the empire’s throne had been born or that a distant battle had been won

Christ (Greek translation of the Hebrew term for messiah): Known by the Romans as the name Jews used for their ruler, anointed by God and the people. The King of the Jews job title had already been granted to Herod, hence the problem when Jesus was also considered to be a King of the Jews

Son of God: A popular title for kings and emperors, such as Alexander the Great and Caesar Augustus

Ekklesia: A local public assembly within the greater Roman Empire, much like a town meeting. These assemblies bestowed citizenship, discussed local political concerns, assigned elders, and offered prayer and worship to Caesar

Parousia (“presence): The return of Caesar to visit a town

Savior (literally “healer” or “preserver”): Caesar Augustus, as Savior, was seen as the one who healed the chaos of Rome and brought it into a new golden age.

Faith: A term used for trust in, allegiance to, and hope in the Pax Romans.

Lord (kyrios): Name for a ruler, particularly a supreme ruler

Emmanuel: The manifestation of the presence and will of the gods; a title claimed by emperors like Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Domitian

Jesus’ language:
Basilea – Jesus’ most common topic of conversation: the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, with Yahweh at the head

Gospel: Jesus’ good news that the kingdom of God is at hand
Christ: Divinely anointed ruler over Israel who would fulfill the scriptural promises of saving the Israelites from sin and oppression

Son of God: The name given to Jesus, who also called Himself the Son of Man

Ekklesia: Word used for the early church, emphasizing that the followers of Jesus were called to participate in their world as local communities of an alternative society to the Roman imperial order

Parousia: The second coming of Jesus

Savior: A title for Jesus

Faith: A term used for trust in, allegiance to, and hope in Jesus

Lord: A much more international acclamation for Jesus than the term Christ/Messiah

Emmanuel: Means “God with us” and is the name prophesied in Hebrew Scripture for the Messiah, later proclaimed by the angel to Mary as one of the names for Jesus

What does this history and linguistics lesson have to do with the election? Looking at the language used by Jesus and His followers, it is clear that their primary goal was not to gain political power in order to change the world, but to set up an alternate kingdom and community that was more concerned about serving Lord Jesus and living by His rules than serving Lord Caesar and living by his rules. Sure, Jesus told the disciples to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” when they asked Him about paying taxes (Matthew 22:21). But that is the only place, apart from His trial and execution, that Jesus interacts with the political powers of His day. Yet somehow, the early church managed to grow and spread and change the world without ever taking political power, while the Roman Empire (and every other ancient kingdom) is dead and gone.

My point, of course, is that as you vote today, put your hope in King Jesus and live for His kingdom instead of putting your hope in the politicians and governments of this world. Serve King Jesus in your local ekklesia and spread His gospel that Jesus is Lord as you live for God’s Kingdom.
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