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Liberation theologians in South America, claiming Jesus as their Guide, Inspiration, and Master, advocate the establishment of socialist regimes that favor the poor.

Christians in North America, claiming Jesus as their Guide, Inspiration, and Master, mobilize Christians all over the United States to vote for politicians who will “return the country to God.”

What gives? Is Jesus a Marxist guerilla or a Christian Coalition Republican? Does He want to change the world using M-16s or ballot boxes? Will His kingdom be established through a socialist revolution or through a massive voter turn-out that supports a particular religio-political agenda?

The answer, of course, is none of the above. During His earthly ministry, Jesus had nothing to do with politics, nor did He give His church any political instruction before He ascended to heaven. The sacred commission He left His people was, instead, overtly nonpolitical: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Which is why the co-opting of Jesus to promote any political agenda always hurts the only work He has given His church—that of spreading the gospel.

Beyond Compromise

“You can’t apply the principles of a kingdom not of this world to a kingdom of this world,” wrote syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. “The purists want to apply the principles of a kingdom that knows no compromise to a kingdom that is all about compromise. . . . Where politics is about power, the Christian faith is about truth. Whenever you try to mix the two, power usually wins, at least for the short haul.”

Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean unconcern for human woe. On the contrary, being a Christian means one cares too deeply to be absorbed by the temporary and incomplete solutions offered by politics. A Christian wants, instead, a permanent and complete solution—and this is found in the gospel of Christ and all that it encompasses, which includes ministering to the immediate needs of those who are suffering, just as Jesus ministered to those needs when He was here.

Until the close of time, many professed Christians will be looking to human institutions for answers that can be found only in a transcendent, eternal, and all-powerful Creator. Yet the Bible does teach that God will have a people in these last days who—though perhaps good citizens fulfilling their civic responsibilities—will, nevertheless, not be swayed from their ultimate goal and purpose: leading people to eternal life in Christ. They’re doing the work John wrote about in Revelation: “I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water’ ” (Revelation 14:6, 7).

This commission promotes no political agenda. In fact, it transcends something as fleeting and local as politics. Nor is this commission some human manifesto scribbled out by scowling malcontents. Rather, it comes directly from heaven, and its issues are spiritual, not political. It’s especially relevant for us today, because it was delivered in the context of the end times—and after thousands of years it should be obvious that the problem with humanity isn’t human government but human hearts.

For this reason, the commission begins with the “everlasting gospel,” which is to be proclaimed to every nation—to every political and ethnic entity. Spreading this truth—the good news of Christ as the One who paid the penalty for humanity’s sins—is the only task that God has given His last-day people. It has to be, because the gospel is the only message that can bring a permanent solution to humanity’s problems. It’s the only message that can get us off the planet and into a world where everything that now causes us so much trouble will be forever eradicated.

Promises, Promises, Promises

The Marxists, the Republicans, the Democrats, and other political groups can make all kinds of promises. But they can’t offer anything like this: “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). Or like this: God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). These are the promises God has made to all who accept the perfect righteousness of Christ, who have been sealed in the blood of Christ, the spotless Son of God who gave His life as a ransom for the world.

Right up to the day these promises are completely fulfilled, Christ, through His Holy Spirit, is working to change our hearts, to make us into His image, and to remedy the real curse of humanity. Political turmoil is only a surface manifestation of the underlying problem. Human woe originates in something much deeper than government. It comes, instead, from the twisted and damaged souls of those ravaged by sin; in other words, from all of us. Jesus, working in the lives of those who follow Him, seeks to bring healing, hope, and relief even now to all who live on this planet.

Christ’s promises don’t offer merely some far-off heavenly utopia. They apply to this life. He promises to cleanse our hearts, to give us a new life, to make us into holy, law-abiding, and obedient people who love not only God but their neighbors as well. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). These are promises that only a holy and omnipotent God can give, promises that no political agenda could ever seriously make, much less fulfill.

Political sloganeering promises the impossible: immediate answers to problems that have stumped the best human minds for generations. But the Bible says that beyond all the confusion of political campaigns, God will have a remnant people who will proclaim the gospel, who will warn of impending judgment, and who will call all nations to worship the Creator. In the immediate context of the last days, Revelation depicts this “remnant” as those who “obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The description presents a balance between lives of obedience and lawfulness now and the great hope of eternal life promised to those who grasp by faith the righteousness of Christ. This is the message of the remnant, a message that, at its core, transcends political questions in the same way that the atmosphere transcends breath.

Whatever its lure, politics presents only temporary fixes. Human problems are spiritual, not political, which is why God’s church will be presenting spiritual, not political, answers. Those who claim that their political mandate comes from Jesus Christ need to read their Bibles again. It contains no call either to armed revolution or to laissez-faire capitalism. What’s there, instead, is the divine commission to preach to every nation, tribe, and people the good news of Christ. And that gospel presents Him not as anyone’s political mascot but as the crucified and risen Savior of a world needing what politics, even at its best, never begins to address, much less offer.

More Than Ballot Boxes

by Clifford Goldstein
From the March 2016 Signs