At Easter we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross secured our salvation and deliverance from “the tyranny of the devil” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 34).
But the cross also marks God’s triumph over the powers of evil: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). In New Testament times, people believed that behind every political structure in the world—behind every human ruler, tribe, and nation—was either a demonic or angelic power, a spiritual being directing them for ill or good. The “powers and authorities,” therefore, included both the visible human powers and the invisible spiritual powers influencing them. They were intrinsically connected. The cross was a victory with not only spiritual but also social and even political repercussions.
I like to think of Jesus’ death and resurrection as his victory over “the powers of this dark world” (Eph. 6:12), which includes liberating us from the grip of sin and Satan, and his second coming as Christ’s inauguration of God’s kingdom, when he claims his rightful throne in the new heaven and earth. (See also N.T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began.) As citizens of God’s kingdom, I believe we need to join in God’s mission of reconciling all things (Col. 1:20), through the way of the cross—the way of sacrificial, even suffering, love and forgiveness.
We Reformed Christians believe Christ is reconciling “every square inch” of our world, including the political realm, to God. This reconciliation cannot be carried out through aggression or coercion, but through the self-giving love and forgiveness of the cross.
Our national citizenship is subordinate to our heavenly citizenship. I believe we owe our allegiance to Christ above all other allegiances. Following Christ means we should not reduce God’s kingdom to any human political platform—liberal or conservative. Submitting to Christ’s lordship means we are freed from the need for partisanship, freed from taking political sides. In an increasingly polarized world, the most radical stance might very well be “neither.”
We must beware of reducing Christian political action to achieving a set of goals, no matter how noble. Because Jesus has already triumphed over evil on the cross, following Christ in the political world is not about winning or achieving our political goals at all cost. If our noble goals, whether they be ending racism or ending abortion, become that “to which everything else is subordinated and by which everything else is judged” (Paul Marshall, Thine Is the Kingdom, p. 149), we might have inadvertently turned them into idols. (I am cautioning myself here, as both those goals are dear to me.)
Instead of obsessing over achieving goals, let’s focus on the way we engage politics for Christ. Let’s call on “all governments to do public justice” (see Our World Belongs to God, Art. 52-54). Because if we depart from a Christ-like way, even if we win and achieve our goals, we may be in danger of following the path of fallen powers when Christ has already freed us from their grip.
In Christ, we have already won. We are freed from sin’s power and from the world’s competition for domination. Anticipating Christ’s inauguration, let us focus on faithfully implementing God’s mission of reconciliation, forgiveness, and sacrificial love, relying on his resurrection power.
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