Jesus 2020: Why I Say No to Worldly Politics and Yes to The Kingdom.

The 2020 national election is being billed as the most important election of a lifetime, reminiscent of similarly styled elections of years-gone-by. Record tens of millions of Americans have already voted and millions more are expected to brave the pandemic to vote on November 3rd. I empathize with the issues and the concerns that will drive many of my friends, neighbors, and fellow believers to the ballot box on Election Day. And I recognize and acknowledge the anxiety many feel about the 2020 presidential election in particular.

However, allow me to give six reasons why I as a follower of Jesus have chosen to remain neutral in the face of the world’s politics, this year and for the last six.

  1. The Kingdom of God is not a metaphor, but a literal government of which I am a citizen and which demands my undivided loyalty.

The dictionary defines “kingdom” as a “state or government having a king or queen as its head”, a definition mirroring the Bible’s description of the Kingdom of God. In Daniel 7:27 we read, “And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.”

Jesus references this in Luke 12:31-32 when he tells his followers, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added unto you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

The Kingdom Jesus will give his disciples is a not a metaphor or something already in their hearts, but, as we saw in Daniel, an actual government.

Being a real government, God’s Kingdom has its own King (Jesus Christ), citizens (all true disciples of Christ), creed (“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”), law (love God and love neighbor), and divinely instituted political agenda (the expansion of the knowledge and the glory of God to the ends of the earth). This government is presently ruling from heaven and is soon to be fully consummated on earth according to God’s predetermined timetable.

Therefore, as a citizen of this Kingdom, I feel it necessary to refrain from engagement in American politics, just as a missionary to a foreign people (who comes with his own agenda) or an ambassador to a foreign country (who comes with her own loyalties) would not think to meddle in the elections or politics of his or her host nation.

  1. The methods and aims of the worldly nations conflict with the methods and aims of the Kingdom of God.

It is not simply that God’s Kingdom is a different government apart from, say, the U.S., Mexico, or China, and thus demands a separate loyalty, but that its purposes also stand in opposition to the purposes of these and all earthly nations. For example…

The worldly governments execute punishment against lawbreakers (1 Pet. 2:14).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God seek to save lawbreakers and bring them into God’s family (2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Tim. 1:15).

The worldly governments compel taxes from their citizens.
The citizens of the Kingdom of God give voluntarily to the Kingdom work (2 Cor. 9:7).

The worldly governments use violent force as a means of coercion (Rom. 13:4).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God eschew violence and promote peace among all peoples (Matt 5:9; Isa. 9:7).

The worldly governments demand submission (Matt. 20:25; cf. Ecc. 8:9).
The citizens of the Kingdom of God demand no submission, but freely submit to the existing governmental authorities, to each other, and to God (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13; Eph. 5:21; Jas 4:7).

The worldly governments wage war against and antagonize their enemies.
The citizens of the Kingdom of God pray for their enemies, work for their ultimate good, and love them. (Matt 5:44, Rom. 12:20, cf. Prov. 25:21)

It is not that the listed methods and aims of the earthly nations are necessarily wrong, but that they conflict with our own divinely ordained agenda as citizens of God’s Kingdom, implying we ought to separate from the former so that we can fully and truly devote ourselves to the latter.

3. The time has not yet come for the political power of the world’s governments to be given to God’s children.

If we read carefully the Daniel passage mentioned earlier, we see God intends to transfer the political power and reach of worldly governments to His own subjects for them to rule in place of the worldly governments.

This is also seen in Psalm 2:8 where God gives the Messiah all the nations of the earth as an inheritance and in Revelation 11:15 where “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” It is in this Kingdom that the saints of God will rule with Christ (2 Tim 2:12; Rev. 1:6, 5:9-10, 20:4-6, cf. Exod. 19:6; Isa. 61:6).

Unlike “holy war” concepts in Islam or in the churches of Christendom of centuries ago, this is not achieved by violence nor the effort of man, but by the strength and will of God in His good timing (Acts 1:6-7).

Therefore, like Jesus, we do not presumptuously nor preemptively assume power, but do what God has called us to do with the sphere of influence He has presently given us, working for the common good, until we receive the promised authority from on high.

  1. The governments of this world are under the ownership of Satan and thus demerit our participation.

The Bible teaches that the governments of the world are presently under the strong influence and control of the enemy of God and mankind whom we often refer to as Satan (lit. adversary) or the Devil (lit. accuser) (Luke 4:5-6; cf. John 12:30-33, 14:28-31, 16:7-11; Eph. 2:12; Col. 1:12-14; Rev. 20:3, 8). This fact does not mean those who participate in government are satanic or possessed, but will imply that the ungodly characteristics of Satan shine through in human government. Consider the following:

  • Satan is a liar (John 8:44). Are not governments notorious for using lies to advance their causes?
  • Satan is a murderer (John 8:44). Are not governments chiefly responsible for shedding the most human blood over millennia?
  • Satan is a pretender (2 Cor. 11:14). Do not governments routinely present themselves as more innocent and their motives as more pure than they truly are?
  • Satan is proud (1 Timothy 3:6). Is not pride the most prominent and enduring source of conflict between world governments?
  • Satan is fearsome (1 Pet. 5:8; Jude 9). Is not human government the most powerful and aggressive force on earth?

While such considerations do not entail logical proof of Satan’s influence in world governments, they are what we would naturally expect to see if such were the case and should thus de-incentivize our participation in worldly governmental politics

5. The Gospel message reaches across and goes beyond national boundaries and political differences.

The world is divided by politics. North Korea vs South Korea. Armenia vs Azerbaijan. Israel vs Palestine. The U.S. vs Russia. Even the churches of Christendom are bitterly divided amongst themselves about which candidates and policies to support.

However, God is not divided and the good news of salvation is not partisan. Being free of worldly political commitments enables me to preach the Gospel message to any person on the earth without conflict of interest, to form bonds that go beyond national differences, and to maintain unity with the worldwide brotherhood of true believers despite any existing international or intranational political conflict.

  1. Jesus refused worldly political service.

Finally, we must consider the example of Jesus who resolutely refused to be a cog in the machine of worldly politics (Matt. 4:9; John 6:15, 18:36). Jesus knew the Kingdom of God was the only solution to mankind’s problems and that, in due time, God would institute His reign on earth as in heaven. In the meantime, Jesus preached the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43) and worked to minister to the needs of those around him, pointing to them to a hope that lay completely outside themselves.

As our Lord and our King, this example of Jesus inspires our own commitment to preach the message of the Kingdom and of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, to work for the good of our neighbors and enemies alike by meeting their physical and spiritual needs, and to keep ourselves clean from the corrupting influence of the world, including worldly politics, as we await King Jesus to bring to earth the Kingdom he promised to his “little flock.”

A Tale of Two Prisoners: What John McCain and Richard Wurmbrand Teach Us About the Two Kingdoms.

Perhaps no living member of the United States Senate commanded the kind of respect enjoyed by Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Shortly after discontinuing treatment for his advanced and aggressive form of brain cancer, the eighty-one year old politician was dead, and thousands across the Republic mourned the loss of America’s Senator.

A self-proclaimed “maverick”, McCain was known for his rare decency in political discourse, his willingness to work across the ideological aisle, and his decorated military service on behalf of the country he adored.

Indeed, it was that service in Vietnam, where he languished five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war, soldiering through the brutalest of tortures, which helped launch McCain’s successful and lengthy political career, gaining him respect in the eyes of allies and opponents alike.

Maverick, though he may have been, McCain stood in a long line of individuals who had had their deepest beliefs tested in the fires of physical and psychological torment.

Indeed, in reading the harrowing details of McCain’s stay at the “Hanoi Hilton”, one notices the similarities between his story and that of another political prisoner more than 5000 miles away.

That prisoner was Richard Wurmbrand.

Wurmbrand was a Romanian convert to Christianity and preacher living in Romania during the Cold War who spent fourteen years in Communists prisons for his faith in Jesus before his release three years before John McCain’s ordeal.

Like McCain, who elected to serve his country in the United States Navy, Wurmbrand felt a divine call to service on behalf of his nation, a Holy Nation, and became a minister of the Gospel in his native Romania, even as the Communists were making such an occupation as difficult and dangerous as possible.

Both men would suffer dearly for their service.

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, McCain’s aircraft was shot down over Hanoi.

Once pulled to shore, he was greeted by a band of North Vietnamese who beat and stabbed him with the butt and bayonet of a rifle, treating the freshly minted POW to a sampling of the hell that was to come.

Nearly twenty-two years prior, the Church in Communist-controlled Romania was facing a war of its own.

At a Soviet-sponsored clerical assembly in 1945, Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina, herself a radical disciple, sat in horror as priests and pastors, one after another, rose and extolled the supposed the compatibility between the Kingdom of Christ and the politics of the Communist state.

Finally, Sabina tuned to her husband and said, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.”

He replied, “If I speak, you will lose your husband”, reminding her of the high cost of defying the Soviets.

With that, Sabina issued him a firm challenge: “I do not wish to have a coward for a husband.”

“Then I arose”, Wurmbrand recounted in his book “Tortured for Christ”, “and spoke to the congress, praising not the murderers of Christians, but Christ and God and said that our loyalty is due first to Him” (15-16).

The brave minister was promptly put on a list and, three years later, arrested and imprisoned.

Wurmbrand and McCain spent three and two years, respectively, of their time incarcerated in solitary confinement.

To keep from losing their sanity, both men passed the days by writing, using the only means available to them: their minds.

“I used to write books and plays, McCain recalled, “but I doubt that any of them would have been above the level of the cheapest dime novel.”

Wurmbrand composed sermons, explaining, “Every night I delivered a sermon. There was no visible audience, but I preached to God. I preached to the angels.”

Though perhaps even worse than the isolation was the physical abuse.

The atrocities visited upon Wurmbrand and other believers in the Communist prisons have to be read to be believed:

Christians were put in ice-box “refrigerator cells” which were so cold, frost and ice covered the inside. I was thrown into one with very little clothing on. Prison doctors would watch through an opening until they saw symptoms of freezing to death, then they would give a warning and guards would rush in to take us out and make us warm. When we were finally warmed, we would immediately be put back in the ice-box cells to freeze—over and over again! Thawing out, then freezing to within just one minute or two of death, then being thawed out again. It continued endlessly. Even today sometimes I can’t bear to open a refrigerator (36-37)

Writing of his own tortuous experiences, McCain said, “I had been reduced to an animal during this period of beating and torture”, at one point enduring a succession of beatings by various prison guards every few hours for days until finally agreeing to write a confession of guilt.

Yet for all the similarities between their stories, the greatest point of divergence is reflected in how they reacted to the very people who caused them such misery.

In a first person account of his captivity, written in 1973, the language McCain used to describe his prison guards spoke to a fresh wound seeping anger and resentment.

“I hate and detest the leaders”, he wrote, a sentiment he echoed in 2000, saying, “I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”

While a professing Christian who prayed and knew the Scriptures, the grace to forgive his tormentors eluded the elderly statesman.

In the starkest of contrasts, even while still imprisoned, Wurmbrand and many of his fellow Christian inmates prayed for and desired the salvation of their captors:

In the jailors who whipped us we saw the possibilities of the jailor of Philippi who first whipped St Paul and then became a convert…It was in prison that we found hope for the communists, that they will be saved. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility toward them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them. (60)

My point here is not to condemn John McCain. I can only thank God I have never suffered a fraction of what he did.

Yet, here we see the clear differences between the politics of the kingdoms of world and the politics of the Kingdom of Jesus.

John McCain went to Vietnam to kill his enemies on behalf of his country.

  • Richard Wurmbrand went to prison with a vision of giving to his enemies life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

John McCain swore himself to hate, resentment, and unforgiveness towards his enemies who made his life a living hell while in captivity.

  • Richard Wurmbrand, by God’s power, was given a supernatural love for his enemies in the very face of their cruelty.

John McCain had an unflagging vision to protect, spread, and preserve the principles of his country, the United States of America, above all others.

  • In solitary confinement, Richard Wurmbrand prayed “for America, for Britain, for Africa, for Australia, for New Zealand, [for] Germany, [and] France”, for their churches and children, knowing “you [the Christians there] pass a good time of your night praying for the prisoners in Communist countries.”

This was a man who understood that the Kingdom of God, not any earthly nation or national principle, is the hope of mankind, and who toiled to make that hope known around the world until his death at ninety-one.

As radical disciples, we feel uncomfortable with the lionizing and romanticizing of war stories and nationalism, both of which fly in the face of our Lord Jesus’ teachings.

Therefore, when our sons and daughters look up and around for heroes to emulate, let us point them to men and women like Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand who embodied the Savior’s words in Matthew 5:11-12:

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”