We’re living in some ugly times, folks. As someone who has served in youth ministry my whole adult life, I tend to be most concerned for how our politics impacts real kids. This election has been so contentious, and our religion has gotten so swept up into our politic that people on all sides have forgotten how to discern the difference between our baptismal identities and our national identities. This weekend at a United Methodist youth rally, a group of Trump supporting white kids bullied a Hispanic youth by secretly pinning a message on him that said, “Build a wall, I love Trump.” Then, when the hispanic youth leader addressed the issue from the stage, requesting people to remove their red hats for the youth rally because they were making her kids feel unsafe, people erupted about their rights. Youth leaders took their kids home because they were outraged at how “political” these sensitive liberals had made their Jesus time. Kids refused to get on the same church bus with other kids from their church whose families supported a different political candidate. The red and blue colors of the political parties may as well have been the gang colors of the Bloods and the Crips. It was a microcosm of the reality that no one can talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that loves the enemy, prays for the persecutor, without being accused of mixing their religion and politics. And because teenagers are a more honest portrayal mirroring what they see in the adult world, we all need to own up the role our sins play in creating this culture we’ve found ourselves in.
The Jesus that set me free from slavery to sin and death looks nothing like the behavior most of us have engaged in over this political season. Jesus did not cut himself off from the people with whom he disagreed. He ate with them. He confronted the powers that be, but he also had a relationship with those people. He was a friend to sinners and tax collectors, and the people that were most transformed by Jesus grew in humility and kindness, spending less time proving they were right than the did sharing the love of Christ with their words and actions.
As we move into Christ the King Sunday this week, we remember that this king wore a crown of thorns. This King’s glory was revealed on the cross. This King adopted the life of a slave to prove his love. Because politics is simply the way people live together, it really is impossible to separate our religion and our politics. I hope that will make Christians more interested in challenging ALL political structures, because NONE of them can contain the Gospel of Christ. Our politic is one of death and resurrection. Our politic will never be neatly packaged as Conservative, Progressive, Liberal. We cannot be content with a politic that does not lead us to seek justice for the least, to take nonviolent action to provide for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the forgotten. You can’t do that behind a computer screen. You can’t do that behind a politician’s clever motto. You can’t do that outside of real relationships with people who are not like you. If Jesus is your Lord, he is calling you to show your holiness by the way you make room for God’s grace in other people’s lives.