Monday, October 20, 2008

Those Politicians Still Don't Get It / Street Level Devotions

Luke 9:7-9

Herod the ruler heard about all that was happening, and he was worried. Some people were saying that John the Baptist had come back to life. Others were saying that Elijah had come or that one of the prophets from long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, "I had John's head cut off! Who is this I hear so much about?" Herod was eager to meet Jesus.

In today’s world it seems as if religion and politics seldom mix without some form of argument taking place. A while back I had the opportunity to interview rocker Rob Zombie director of such films as Halloween and The Devil’s Rejects and a popular musician. I’ll never forget his response when asking about religion and politics; “I tend to not discuss religion and politics because when people talk about them someone seems to always end up with a broken nose.” Truth is, while there may not be as much physical violence as one would think, there is a lot of arguing.

To see the Rob Zombie Interview you can click on the above for the MySpace link or here for the Hollywood Jesus link.

I can think of few other things that tear apart friendships like religion and politics. Two people can be the best of friends, and suddenly when one or both of these topics come up, dear friends can become mortal enemies.

Despite the fact that many don’t like talking religion, especially within political circles, it doesn’t change the fact that politicians have involved religion in their attempt to attract voters. There has been for thousands of years now, the interest of getting religion on the side of various political views. We see this taking place in the Bible and one of the examples is with the ruler Herod.

Herod was a political figure during the time of Jesus we read about in various places both in the Bible and other historical documents. It was obvious that Herod was among those trying to get the favor of certain religious leaders. It is also obvious that he, like many of the politicians today was looking out more for his interest than he was to do what was right. Herod was even suckered into beheading John the Baptist in order to provide favor to a female. He was driven more about self gratification than he was spiritual truth.

Herod, like many of today’s politicians was at a loss when it came to understanding religion and specifically the teachings of those who followed Jesus. I am convinced that one of the reasons for this confusion was the desire to serve self more than serving others. While most politicians present their involvement in politics as being a desire to serve, a wonderful movie with Richard Gere some years ago, titled Power gave an appropriate portrayal that the real issue is for most politicians, gaining power.

Politicians often see something in religion they crave; they see the potential for power, power that can corrupt as much as deliver or help others in their difficulty. One has to wonder, are there also those involved in religion that use religion to corrupt and obtain power? The answer to that is obvious, without a doubt, yes.

When it comes to the person of Jesus, it is clear from later writings that Herod had no idea who Jesus was, or what his message was about. This is clear from the reality that Herod was a part of the process that later had Jesus crucified. Let me ask this question, if Herod and the religious and political leaders had truly understood the person of Jesus and had believed in his message, would they have crucified him? Let me ask this question about political figures today, talk show hosts, or any number of others who find a way to mix their politics with their religion. If in reality, these people understood who Jesus was, what he was about, and what his teachings meant, would they continue on with the emphasis on political power the way they do? I challenge, any of us can read the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. God through his Holy Spirit gives the ability to understand what Jesus’ teachings mean. Let me therefore ask the question, does it appear as if those who are mixing their religious beliefs and their politics, are putting an emphasis on doing, and acting out on the teachings of Jesus, or is their emphasis on something other than the message of Jesus? The reality is, there is nothing wrong with the follower of Jesus with being involved in the political process as long as the primary emphasis is on the message of Jesus. When it comes to helping the poor, to standing up for the oppressed, to feeding the hungry, seeking social justice and so forth, all of which are messages Jesus taught, we need to realize, those are political as well as spiritual issues. For those of us who have the freedom to be involved in decisions of this sort, we not only should be concerned with presenting the message of Jesus, we are somewhat obligated to do so. We must never forget though, our citizenship is in Heaven first and foremost and nothing we do should be contrary to the message of Jesus.

When looking at these types of messages we must realize we may come to different conclusions on such things as war, abortion, helping the poor and so forth. I won’t be so vain as to dictate how you respond to those things. I will be vain enough to say though; your views must be rooted and based on the teachings of the Bible. It is here we as followers of Jesus receive our ultimate authority. It isn’t from the Democratic Party, The Independent Party, The Republican Party or the Reform Party, it is from God and the directives given by God.

Often, those with an emphasis on mixing religion and politics don’t understand the person of Jesus; don’t understand the concepts of being like Jesus for a simple reason. They don’t know the person of Jesus. While many will put on a face, much like Herod did, they want to know about Jesus for the wrong reason, they want to know so they can have what they perceive as power. Jesus teachings teach not about power though, his teachings teach about serving and loving. These are concepts that are about more than words, they are concepts about following the example Jesus himself illustrated. They were examples that often offended the political system of time so much so that the religious people, and the political powers saw to it that he was crucified. While Jesus offered himself as a willing sacrifice for our sins, the power sought by many of the religious leaders and certainly the political leaders actually corrupted their actions and were partially responsible for the need of Jesus willing sacrifice.

As we move on in life, as we are involved in political and religious discussions, may we know Jesus more than Herod or any political leader who may have some knowledge of the Bible or spiritual issues. May we also realize that the power Jesus offered was from God, it was about serving, loving and providing hope, hope that promised a life with God in Heaven forever. While there are certainly political and religious influences that we come into contact with, may we realize that we are about a higher standard, we are about a standard of loving and doing what Jesus commanded.

Thought for the day: While there are religious and political rulers, none of them have a right to dictate a standard that goes against the directives of King Jesus.

I am reading a wonderful book now, Jesus for President written by Shane Claiborne. The following is a promotion for that book that will cause you to think about some of the things mentioned here in the article.

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Here is a thought provoking music video that I happen to like. If you like hip hop you may like it as well. Even if you don't like the style of music, check out the video as a lot of good things are said. Just click on the video. The video is of J Sky Walker and the song is Jesus for President.

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