When it comes to social issues people are passionate about, the “Jesus” card is likely to be found in abundance. Note just a few ways the name of Jesus is invoked as a political comeback:
“Jesus Was A Refugee”
While an angel did appear to Mary and Joseph, telling them to temporarily flee to Egypt to save their child from Herod (cf. Matt. 2:13-15), the statement “Jesus was a refugee” has as much bearing on American immigration policy as “Jesus ate fish” as on the American Department of Agriculture.
“Jesus was a refugee” is just a neutral fact; kind of like saying “Jesus wore sandals,” or “Jesus was of Hebrew descent.” So what? It is not politically relevant today. The simple truth is Jesus didn’t have much to say about a secular nation’s border policy. It is irrational to focus on one isolated area of Jesus’ life and form a political opinion at the neglect of everything else He actually did have to say.
The Bible does, however, condemn Herod for murdering children. And given the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus was a perfect candidate for an abortion. Yet among those who argue against the right of a sovereign nation to protect its borders, where is the outrage over the legalized murder of millions of innocent babies in the womb?
Mary and Joseph’s temporary escape to Egypt was a means to the end (Matt. 2:15). It was not the most significant thing Jesus did. We are guilty of secularizing and cheapening the message of Christ when we point to Jesus and claim He has something against the right of a country to scrutinize foreigners who wish to enter its land.
Furthermore, why is it the state’s job to care for displaced people? Isn’t this the role of the church? Some of the most vocal proponents for the so-called “separation of church and state” are eager to ask the state to fulfill this important role of the church. Yes, “Jesus was a refugee,” and He specifically asked His church — not secular nations — to care for strangers (Matt. 25:31-46).
It’s commendable to care for refugees. But regardless of your political feelings, don’t bring Jesus into it — He didn’t ask you to assign Him a position in the matter.
“Jesus Was A Socialist”
No, He wasn’t. He did command His followers to love and care for one another from the heart (John 13:35; James 2:16). And the early Christians likewise freely shared their wealth with their fellow brethren in need (Acts 4:34-35). But this is vastly different than government-enforced wealth re-distribution.
Jesus said a lot of things opposed to the very foundation of true socialism. In Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus stressed not only the importance of using our assets wisely, but also implied that individuals have the right to personally benefit from their investments. He commanded in His New Testament: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). His apostles recognized that people have the freedom to control the use of their property (Acts 5:4).
“Jesus Was A Feminist”
The ministry of Jesus had revolutionary implications for how men and women treat one another. Everything Jesus did and taught was an attack on the pride that makes men and women belittle one another. He removed pride from leadership, and oppression from submission. He called lust “adultery” and threatened those who were guilty of it with hell (Matt. 5:28-29). He condemned divorce when you simply get tired of your wife (Matt. 19:8). He called into account every careless word (Matt. 12:36). He commanded us to treat others how we want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).
He taught women, He was accompanied by women, and women bore witness to His resurrection. In this way, Jesus was a feminist. He treated women with dignity, because women are made as much as men in the image of God.
But Jesus was far from a feminist — in the modern sense of the word — when it comes to role equality (in the home and in the church), abortion, and sexuality. Jesus said all people — including those in the womb from the moment of conception — are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6). He commanded in His New Testament for wives to submit to their husbands as Christ submits to God (Eph. 5:22; 1 Cor. 11:3). He said sex is reserved exclusively for the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). He willed that men are to be the leaders in the church (1 Tim. 2:12). He commanded all people to be submissive to those in authority (Eph. 6:5; Heb. 13:7, 17).
Jesus Isn’t Your Mic Drop
People disagree on issues like immigration, welfare, and women’s rights. Of course, not all opinions are equally valid; some positions are right, others are wrong. But when Jesus is taken out of the spiritual realm and brought into the political realm, He will respond, “Who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14).
After the 5,000 had heard Jesus preach about His kingdom and had been miraculously fed by Him (Luke 9:11-13), they knew that He was a special prophet (John 6:14). But Jesus had to flee from them, because they were trying to pervert His spiritual mission into a political one (John 6:15).
This does not mean that Jesus was oblivious to political issues involving God’s Word, for He preached submission to the government (Luke 20:22f), and candidly judged their exploitation (22:25ff). He and His apostles spoke clearly about issues that are politically-charged today: abortion, prostitution, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, alcohol and drugs, education of children, crime, and racism, just to mention a few. Yet, the rule of Christ was never designed to band His followers into political entities on earth, whether they be civil states or political parties. WE must not allow His church to become such entities, just as Christ refused to become an earthly king.
Yet, when politics does enter into the realm of God’s revelation, we must always side with God (Gal. 1:10).
Jesus isn’t some tool. He won’t bow to your political ideology. But He does command you to bow before Him as Lord. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11).
Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and is married to Hannah. Together they have two children, Ezra and Colleyanna. Ben currently preaches at the Edgewood Church of Christ in Columbus, GA.