Is Jesus a Democrat or a Republican?

Would Jesus be a Democrat or a Republican? Is he a liberal or conservative? Unspoken or not, those are common enough questions for many Americans—particularly those of us who claim to be his followers.

So is there a right answer?

In response, let me suggest that we’re actually asking the wrong question. A biblical passage from the book of Joshua will help explain what I mean. To set the stage a bit: at God’s command, Joshua is about to lead the Israelites into Canaan to drive out its inhabitants and claim the land for their own possession. Their first mission is to conquer the city of Jericho. But notice what happens just prior:

Joshua 5:13-14: Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

Joshua wanted to know what side the man was on. But his question uncovers a crucial detail. The person in question is no regular soldier. Rather, he identifies himself as the “commander of the army of the Lord.” As in other Old Testament passages, the text is somewhat ambiguous as to whether this is some powerful angelic being, or actually God himself. Either way, however, the figure is closely identified with the presence and authority of the Lord.

And notice what Joshua does in light of this fact. Rather than continuing ask about the mysterious figure’s allegiance, he very quickly offers him his own, along with his reverence (ESV: “worship”): “What message does my Lord have for his servant.”

The takeaway is simple, but important: rather than seeking to recruit or co-opt Jesus to our side or cause, we need to find out what he’s about and follow him.

But we shouldn’t leave this discussion here. While identifying Jesus with a political party is mistake, it’s not the only mistake Christians can make in this area. People also tend to think that Jesus is somehow above or not concerned with politics. Yet it’s very hard to read about Jesus’ life and teaching and come way thinking that the faith of which he is the center isn’t related to political questions and issues (and see Col. 1:15-20 for his relevance to, well, everything).

At other times Jesus is presented as advocating some kind of “middle way,” meaning that to follow Jesus will encourage political moderation, inevitably leading us to straddle the line between opposing positions. No doubt following Jesus might at times lead us to say “neither this nor that.” For example, see Jesus’ response to a question about taxation in Matthew 22, a question meant to trap him into one of two problematic positions. But I’d add that there are many times in the gospels that Jesus comes across as something far different than neutral or moderate. All this is to say that none of us should be “extreme” or “moderate” for its own sake or because it’s viewed as such by a particular group of people, but rather because Jesus leads us there in a given case.

So I think we’d be much better off if we asked ourselves something like this: “In light of these particular candidates and issues, what does following Jesus look like? How should we vote, seek to influence others, or otherwise become involved in light of him?”

If that’s our goal, however, we’ll need to remember that good intentions, while admirable, often aren’t enough. For example, we may (rightly) want to help the poor, but our ignorance of the wider biblical teaching on the subject might lead us to choose a course that is less effective or even harmful in the long run.

At a minimum then, we should look to familiarize ourselves with the Bible more and more, including:

  • The main acts of the biblical story—creation, fall, and redemption—and their relevance to our lives.
  • How God’s redemptive plan has unfolded over time.
  • The significance of Jesus’ life, and death, and resurrection.
  • Jesus’ (and his apostles’) teaching on what it looks like to trust in and follow him before his return.

Thinking carefully about these things will put us in a much better position to approach the area of politics (and everything else). No doubt in some cases the application of biblical truth to a particular issue will be relatively straightforward. At other times, it will be more difficult, and we’ll need to take into account several strands of biblical teaching (along with relevant facts about science and technology, history, economics, our form of government, etc.) to inform our path.

In either case, thinking politically means thinking biblically, at least if we want to follow Jesus faithfully in this part of our lives.

One Comment

  1. Kay Solomon said:

    I don’t think Jesus would be either. These are just labeles and sadly too many people use them to allow division among us. It’s best to look at the candidates separately and see what they stand for to know if they align with the teachings of Christ. Personally, I think Bernie Sanders is the candidate who most encompasses the views and teachings of Jesus. I feel there is far too much greed and corruption in politics and while it’s fine to be against things like abortion, death penalty, war, etc. for religious reasons, I think we need to be more Christ-like in focusing on helping those in need verses shaming or harming those we don’t agree with. After all, Jesus didn’t heal the sick unless they had pre-existing conditions. He didn’t feed the hungry only after they passed a drug test. He didn’t say, let the little children come to me unless they are refugees of a war and I fear they may grow up to be terrorists or bring one with them. I try to live as I feel Christ would have and while I see things I don’t like and fear harm may come to me, I refuse to let that shake my faith. I know in my heart I have no place to judge or question my neighbor for their sins, and know only God can do that so I’ll leave it to him.

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