This morning, I feel that I will be walking through the minefield of the chaotic American politics of this day as I preach on Jesus words.

Hesham Shehab: Christian Identity and Politics… Should We Care?

Matthew 22: 15-22

Grace to You and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter 21, Jesus had entered the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and

cleared the temple, which was very upsetting to the religious leaders. So, in Matthew 22, they were trying to trap him between the two horns of a dilemma, so that they would accuse him of either betraying the Jewish community that was under occupation, or rebellion against the Romans.

Military occupation is not a joke…usually it is very very heavy handed. I lived under Syrian occupation in Lebanon for almost 30 years of my life, and the last decade there I was a full-time journalist and a writer. One direct or indirect criticism against the Syrian occupation could end your life in Syrian dungeons. You may die under torture and what have you. So, writing there was like walking through a mine field.

This morning, I feel that I will be walking through the minefield of the chaotic American politics of this day as I preach on Jesus words.

Politics is never simple. History is not simple. Social issues are not simple… and many people, nowadays want you to take a stand with or against an issue….our free speech culture has become a “CANCEL” culture.

So, if you think your options in November’s elections will be difficult, think about the situation of Jesus and His followers in that divided Jewish community.

After 2000 years of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, some Christians have a simplified and generalized picture of the Jewish community in Jerusalem then, and may think that the Jews then were saints, just devoted to worship Yahweh in that Holy City, irrespective of their differences.

I used to think that way until I read a book titled, Jerusalem: The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Montefiore who is a Jew and speaks many languages, said in his book that Jewish militias terrorized the community in Jerusalem as the city was under Roman siege, before it fell in 70 AD. Montefiore explains that Jerusalem fell from withing before the Romans took the city by force.

A nation would implode from within, before it is attacked from without. We, Americans should heed the lessons of history.

Going back to our text, some Jewish leaders were trying to drive a wedge between Jesus and His followers and incriminate Christ.

The Pharisees and the Herodians who had never agreed on anything in those days, agreed on trapping Jesus, and getting rid of Him. While, the Pharisees were part of the religious hierarchy, the Herodians were mainly a political group.

Some years ago, when I started ministry to Muslims and experienced some opposition, a pastor told me that if Jesus comes back, “we pastors may try to kill him.”

George Orwell defined politics itself as a mass of lies, evasions, folly, and hatred. Well, those are not very good words. Politics is the kind of thing that ruins your Thanksgiving dinner, right? But we are ruled by politicians, many of them are not saints, and we need to figure out as Christians what we can do with a restful conscience.

Martin Luther and Lutheran theologians wrote about this and their writings could be summarized in two doctrines: The Kingdom of the Right, which is spiritual, and the Kingdom of the Left, which is temporal.

Luther here states that the children of Adam fall into two groups, those who belong to the kingdom of God and those who belong to the kingdom of the world.

To the kingdom of God belongs all who believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. Of them Luther says: “Behold, these need neither sword nor law…”

But beside His spiritual kingdom God has established another, the kingdom of temporal authority. This exists because evil exists. God has set the evil world under the sword in order to check violence and injustice, and to maintain peace and order.

But this is not all.

God has a strategy through his right-hand kingdom. It is to promote the good news, the Gospel, into the left-hand kingdom. The good news is that, with our contribution or co-operation, Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and triumph over death could undo Satan’s hold on the world, and take many out of the Devil’s captivity.

I always like to summarize what Luther said with a story attributed to Luther:

A cobbler came and asked Luther, would I become a better Christian by putting a cross on every shoe I make? Luther replied; You can become a better Christian by making better shoes.

Friends, the world looks at what we do, not at what we say.

I am not here to tell you to whom you should vote. But, as we approach politics we need both compassion and conviction.

But, what do we mean when we talk about politics? I would like to simply define politics as the collective conversation that our free society is supposed to have about how we will organize ourselves and order our lives under wise governance.

So, it is a very important area of life. Sadly, you’ll note that the conversation has grown toxic recently… the media takes sides.

And social media is a place for us to take sides between or against one another. And we’ve, reduced our political conversation down to bumper stickers and slogans.

And… slogans and bumper stickers and things like that don’t get the hard work done. As I said earlier, politics is complicated, and life is complicated.

Should Christians give up and let others fight it out?

Christians are not supposed to give up. We need to promote the Gospel into the Kingdom of the Left.

So, as we preach the gospel… as we shape society through our actions and our love, we could shape society, and ultimately, we may shape the people that are involved in this conversation that becomes politics.

But beware, any way we vote, the kingdom of God is not gonna stop advancing. Because God could create good out of evil. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8: 28)

Jesus is still on his throne and he’s still working out the details in this world through us Christians as we are sometimes humiliated, and it’s not the end of the world when it’s the end of an election. So, we should not have undue hope, but we don’t also have to give into undue fear.

As followers of Christ, we can have a position that’s steady and stable and centered on Christ and his kingdom. As Christians, we should care about politics because it is a realm where we can love our neighbor and fulfill the second greatest commandment; love your neighbor as yourself.

I think that this conversation we’re having in the realm of politics about how we govern, how we rule, and how we look out for the most vulnerable in society is a way that we love our neighbor as ourself, how we love the unborn, how we love the immigrant…how we love those who are suffering injustice, how we love those who are entrapped by poverty, how we love children, how we love the elderly.

And how we love any kind of person in our society is the question that real politics should always seek to answer. So, we need to be in our engagement, looking for a significant impact as we love our neighbor as ourself, because politics is an area where there is a lot of significant impact as well as consequences.

So, today, I am talking about politics because Christians should care. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. And in this conversation, we call politics, we influence, appeal for policies, laws, and practices, that either harm or heal ourselves and our neighbors…

The Bible gives us wonderful examples of those who have engaged in the civic sphere as well. Think about Joseph who administered Egypt during a famine and said to his brothers who got rid of him: You meant this for evil, but God meant this for good. The saving of many lives.

Think about Moses, whom God used to break the power of tyranny and oppression and redeem God’s people, Israel, out of the bondage of slavery.

Think about Daniel, the prophet who served his entire life…Not so much as a prophet, but as a statesman with four different Kings over Babylonian empires.

Think about the apostle Paul who appealed to Caesar. Paul was a Roman citizen with a unique privilege that used for the good of others and to advance the kingdom of God.

God cares about politics because it’s a way of us loving our neighbor as ourself. It’s a means through which we can fulfill the second greatest commandment.

In our text today, Jesus directs us toward a place where we can be involved in civics and politics, but not over-involved. We have Cesar having a place, but God having his rightful place on the throne.

In short, what should be the position of a Christian?

Before we are Republicans or Democrats, independent, or libertarians, we are Christians first Christians…followers of Christ.

Scripture tells us that we are ambassadors of the Kingdom. Paul writes in Ephesians 6: 20. I am an ambassador in chains. Pray for me that I may declare the gospel boldly as I ought to speak, or in second Corinthians 5: 20, Paul says that all of us are ambassadors.

So, what does an ambassador mean? Well, …a foreign ambassador is a person who lives in a country, not their own and represents the country from which they come from. So, if I’m the German ambassador to the US and I have a residence in the US, I represent the country of Germany by my actions, by my words, by my behavior, and by my speech.

If I’m an ambassador from Germany and I start to make my priorities and concerns to be more about the United States and interfere a lot in American politics, have I succeeded or failed in my job as an ambassador of Germany?

I failed because I was caught up in the country’s politics, which I’m supposed to be living, while I’m called to represent my Homeland. We, as Christians have a Homeland, it’s called the Kingdom of Heaven. We are ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Philippians 3: 20 says this: our citizenship is in heaven.

We are not called to get caught up in the pettiness of the kingdom in which we’re in right now, because we belong to another kingdom. This has everything to do with how we think about, and how we engage the world.

But frankly, we’re always going to be misfits. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you’re still going to be out of place in some way.

So, in November, you’re going to have to make a choice and you’re going to have to make it on Kingdom priorities. You’re gonna have to think about the issues thoroughly and thoughtfully and carefully, but realize that even in making that choice, casting that ballot, you are not fully aligned with everything that party stands for.

We are going to be misfits in the kingdom of this world because we belong to another kingdom. In the meantime, though, we should press the crown rights of Jesus, who is the King of Kings at whatever place we are.

So, if you find yourself in the party of Republicans, you should be pressing for immigration reform and loving other people who are impoverished.

It’s an important thing that you should be doing. If you find yourself in the democratic party, you better be speaking for the rights of the unborn because your party needs to do better on that issue.

Finally, we could learn from the history of the Church.

Five values that marked the early church.

First, the early church was multiethnic. They pursued racial justice, Jew and Gentile, slave and free.

Second, the early church was oriented toward the poor following Jesus commands. They cared about economic justice.

Third, the early church was conciliatory. They, were engaged in bridge-building.

Fourth, the early church was pro-life. They were against infanticide. They rescued children who had been exposed and left for dead in Rome, and adopt them.

Fifth, the early church was committed to a biblical sexual ethic in the middle of a very complex Roman world where sex was a huge idol.

The Lord brought us together by his blood. He purchased us, redeemed us from every tribe and language and nation.

So, let’s pray…heavenly father. We thank you that you have redeemed us through Jesus. We thank you that you have made us your very own. You’ve made us your own kingdom citizens, and we are thrilled that you chose us as ambassadors.

So, we pray Lord that you’ll help us to live lives that are worthy of the calling we’ve received. In Jesus name.

Amen.

Rev. Hesham Shehab


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Hesham Shehab
Hesham Shehab
Educator, Journalist, Columnist, Islamic Expert, Muslim Expert, Human Rights Activist, Pastor at | Website

Adjunct Faculty at College of DuPage, Formerly Adjunct Faculty at American University of Beirut and Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church Lombard, IL Name pronounciation: HI-shahm SHI-hab  Hebrews 12: 4 & Philippians 1: 29



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