The compass informing the direction taken by Christians by those who desire to consciously be involved in political witness must of necessity be the Bible. It is insincere to correctly read the Bible and not see the interplay between faith and the social order. In the words of Alan Storkey in “The Bible’s Politics” in Witness to the Word edited by David Peterson (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1999) p. 63:
The Bible contains a vast amount of political content, not just as content, but as principle, theology, the drama of faith, as God’s law, as content of people’s life and as explicit teaching.
|Police clobber Rev. T. Njoya in a street demo|
His teaching was perceived as an attack on both Jewish as well as Roman leadership to an extent that he died a Roman political death of crucifixion. Simon Peter’s life was transformed by his obedience to Jesus’ word even when it seemed ‘empty’ in human experience. Our Lord Jesus did not stop teaching on any issue just because it was perceived to be aimed at the ruling class. Instead he directly addressed the issues in the lives of those around him. We cannot limit Jesus and make excuses for our failing to follow Jesus truly by choosing to ignore aspects of the Bible that do not suit us.
In the Gospels we read recounts of multitudes gathering around Jesus. How can we imagine that these great gatherings did not disturb the leaders? Matthew records that When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. These crowds were gathering because Jesus was the Messiah, understood or misunderstood! The political significance of these crowds is alluded to in the Gospel of John: Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Of course we understand that Jesus’ kingship was not worldly, but all these happenings were not within a political vacuum. Jesus refused to be drawn into this ‘uprising’. He does not wish to be party to leading this harassed lot to death! However, the political implications of this occurrence cannot be neglected. The Galilean Zealots who had looked to John the Baptist for deliverance turned to Jesus. This ought to be read in the light of the second and third temptations of Jesus in the wilderness which were essentially political in nature. In the second temptation, the devil asked for a messianic sign while in the third temptation offered Jesus control of all the kingdoms of the world. An attempt to make Jesus king would clearly be considered an uprising against the position of Herod at that time.
In conclusion, the Gospel’s sphere of influence does not in any way decrease by its involvement in politics or any other matter in human history. In fact the argument is a realization of the sheer oddness of any such positioning. The way to go is to allow the Gospel’s dynamic power act upon our political opinion, as indeed upon other issues in the world around us. In the words of Goudz Wedge in A Christian Political Option, A summary of the total working of the word of God in politics is that it urges us to strive after a politics conceived in the radicality of the gospel. This gospel radicality is directed both at our hearts – breaking radically through our middle class ideas, concepts and motives – and at the society around us, whose very basis and root (radix) are subject to the testing power of that gospel.
By Rev. Ben Shikwati
African Institute of Contemporary Missions and Research