American Christians are divided on multiple fronts, none more apparent than politics. We need to navigate this moment in a way that honors the Name we claim to represent. To honor Jesus, we must reject both apathy and compromise.
American Christians are unique in that we will be held accountable by Jesus on both sides of Romans 13:1, as faithful citizens and as just governors. We can’t say “politics don’t matter.” Politics affect people, and people matter to Jesus. We also can’t say, “politics are our only hope.” Our hope is in Jesus. We need wisdom to navigate this way. I think the time is right for American Christians to revisit the administration of King Jeroboam as a warning to apathy on the one hand, and compromise on the other.
Jeroboam used religion to protect his rule.
In I Kings 12, the kingdom of Israel had split. King Rehoboam stayed south, and Jeroboam led dissenters to the north. Out of this Civil War, Jeroboam had a political problem. When the time came for northern citizens to worship, they had to leave home and journey south into Rehoboam’s borders, to Jerusalem. This was a threat to Jeroboam’s rule. He wasn’t having it. He created an alternative worship system in complete defiance of God’s commands. He built altars conveniently in the north, recruited a new priesthood, erected images, and invited his Northern subjects to worship within his borders. Because of Jeroboam, they didn’t have to go to Jerusalem as God commanded, and his kingdom was politically secure. Jeroboam used religion to protect his rule. The compilers of Kings came to call this “the sin of Jeroboam”—which went mostly unaddressed for nearly 300 years, ensnaring the population into idolatry.
American Christians must reject the compromise (and sin) of Jeroboam that co-opts faith to serve political power. To this end, we must examine which holds greater sway in our spirit and our Churches, a vision of the Kingdom or a vision of America. We cannot pursue a form of public witness that makes the living body of Jesus a lifeless puppet in the hands of powerful politicians. When this happens, the Church is shaped not by the Spirit of Jesus but by the spirit of the age. We can never challenge the status quo with the Kingdom of God if we reinforce the kingdoms of this world by allowing ourselves to be political captives. The Church ought to reveal the Kingdom in a way that transcends politics instead of being captive to them.
We can never challenge the status quo with the Kingdom of God if we reinforce the kingdoms of this world by allowing ourselves to be political captives.
American Christians must also reject the apathy that keeps us secluded and on the sidelines. Later in Kings, God raised up prophets in the north, like Elijah, who boldly denounced the kings who perpetuated Jeroboam’s sin. The witness of God’s people is not disconnected from the days we live in. We are to live boldly in our age with our eyes on the next. There is no room for apathy with faith. Living faithfully involves speaking prophetically to the culture and living out the Kingdom among the culture in subversive yet attractive ways.