In a discussion about politicians and Christians this became a central question. Christians are not called to imitate Jesus in everything he did. But, Christians are called to do some things he didn’t do, for example, have children.
And these thoughts spurred on the line of thinking below.
Christians don’t need to literally imitate all of Jesus’ actions on earth in order to be Christian. It would be silly if all Christians were walking around in Jewish clothes with 12 men following them. We don’t need to imitate Jesus like that.
But…we do need to imitate his example of radical servant love that creates justice and shalom by giving infinite dignity to all people.
Imitating Jesus is central to Paul’s understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Paul talks about Christians being “in Christ” over and over in his letter to the church in Rome. The english translation adds the prefix “co-“ to the “in Christ” actions and ideas. For example:
Christians are co-burried with Christ (6:4), united with Christ (6:5), co-crusified (6:6), co-died (6:8), co-live (6:8), co-inherit, co-suffer, and co-glorified (8:17) with him. Paul’s climax of Christian’s imitating Jesus is Romans 8:29 where “in order that we might be co-formed (conformed) into the image of God’s son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brothers and sisters.” Paul expects Christians to be conformed into little Jesus’ by their own choice and by the mysterious power of Jesus’ Spirit in their lives.
Paul also has a stream of thought in his other letters that make this point even stronger. He writes about Jesus’ life infusing and manifesting in the lives of believers! Christians become so much like him, that he is recognizable in them. (PhiL 1:20, Gal 4:19, Col 1:27 and Eph 3:17).
The Spirit of Jesus & the Law of Love
Secondly, Christians are called to live by the law of love. The perfect law that Jesus’ Spirit places in our hearts (Jer 31:33, Hebrews 10:16) empowers us to act with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control. It would be hard for a follower of Jesus to be consistent with those characteristics as the President of the Philippines. Would it be impossible?I hope not.
I hope a Christian could get elected to be president of the Philippines. But, I think he/she would be ousted immediately after starting to treat every citizen (Moro, Lumad, Christian and everyone in between) with dignity and infinite value. Jesus was willing to go to the cross for his enemies sake, and a Christian in politics would be called to the same thing. I don’t think Mr. Rodrigo Duterte is willing to do that. We heard enough about that tonight.
I think that humanity’s mandate from Jesus is a 2.0 version of the original creation mandate to care for the earth (new OS if you will). We’re not only managing the creation now, we’re part of God’s pilot community, the beginning (first fruits) of new creation.
The individual Christians who make up the church in the Philippines are called to show all authorities that governance which uses power to manipulate is not God’s ideal. It never was, Jesus showed us that. Jesus’ followers are taught to live according to the law of love, not the law of the land. (Romans 13:8-10, Gal 5:14,23)
If Christians govern, then they are called to govern like God. With impartial love for friends and enemies. (Matt 5:44, 48) Doing what the writer of the Gospel of Matthew said – “Being perfect (holy) like our heavenly father” and treating the “righteous and unrighteous” with the same love (fruit of the spirit) as our friends. Jesus showed us how to do this and commended us to follow him on that path.
If a Christian politician thinks he has a “calling” to politics and then chooses to disobey Jesus by killing or dehumanizing radical militants in the Philippines or drug dealers in Davao city, he is denying Jesus.
Authorities are called to govern and create a just society. Positions of authority are created by God for order and justice (Romans 13:4). We all hope for fairness from the Government. God calls all people to care for the weak and “garden” his creation. God wants his perfect will and reconciliation to happen here on earth.
If a politician does anything beyond justice, shalom and radical love then he’s acting outside of God’s will in Christ. The NT makes that clear. There are no other examples for us to follow than Jesus.
A Practical Example
In Acts, Peter reminds the crowds that Jesus died as a sacrifice according to God’s plan (2:23, 3:18). But that’s not all. The apostles also convict and accuse every Jewish authority they meet of killing Jesus unjustly.
- 3:15 – You killed the originator of life.
- 5:30 – you killed Jesus, who God raised up, by hanging him on a tree.
- 7:52 – You are the betrayers and murderers of the Righteous One.
- While explaining the Gospel of Peace to a Roman soldier, 10:39 – People of Israel killed Jesus by hanging him on a tree.
The historical authorities in the Acts story were Jewish spiritual/legal leaders. Everyone believed they were chosen by God for their holy task in the temple. But, Paul gets punched in the face for challenging them (23:2).
He was not submitting to their authority.
They were not doing God’s will.
The jewish leaders murdered Jesus. They were called by God to rule with justice and mercy, truth and peace but they acted unjustly and unrighteous and killed the author of life.
Nero, Augustine Etc…?
Are Nero, Augustine, and Nebuchadnezzar servants of God doing God’s will during their time? Maybe They were called to be servants of God.
Maybe some of their actions moved God’s kingdom forward. God can use anything to do his purpose. Even the first Christian martyr event, Stephen (Acts 8:54), is credited for scattering the church and resulting in the spread of the Gospel (Acts 8:4).
It’s still clear that it wasn’t God’s will for Stephen to be murdered brutally. No, not a chance. Paul confesses that later in his letters.
Stephen was man following the path of love that challenged the powers and lead to his death. Jesus called his disciples to take up their cross and follow him and Stephen did.
Jesus taught the disciples that it would happen to them they followed him, and 10-12 of his disciples did follow him on the path to martyrdom. But, it wasn’t God’s will.
Although God did turn their deaths around and use them for good the disciples were killed by the powers of darkness and evil.
Can Christians be president of the Philippines and be faithful to Jesus? I don’t think so. What do you think?