The story of his birth has him surrounded by royalty and common folk. The story of his life embeds him with prostitutes and Pharisees, tax collectors, night-walking religious folk and tough guys who would as soon throw him over a cliff as say “hello”. He stood trial before religious tribunals and Roman procurators. He was executed as a common criminal; and then no one could find the body.
Jesus was an operative. He was a play-maker, a visionary, one who was able to anticipate what was coming. He was powerful; so he didn’t have to be popular. Slippery as mud, calm as a deep, still pool, focused and frustratingly consistent, it was hardest to tune him out when his talking irritated you the most.
He was a spinner of yarns and always ready to do verbal battle with demons real and imagined. When it came to human behavior he was the most astute character of his time and, in so many ways, the most treacherous. He wasn’t really looking for friends, though he had some; he was more interested in followers – folks who caught a glimpse of what he was up to and were determined to tag along.
Jesus didn’t speak for you; he claimed to speak for God. He would be the single most frightening person ever to have lived except for one thing: he eschewed political power. As critical as he could be of those who wielded such power, he never ran against them or tried to unseat them. Any time someone uses him for their own political endorsement they look and sound foolish. Certainly, seriously taking into consideration his teaching will influence the decisions a politician makes; it’s just better to keep that influence out of the public view lest one claims for him or herself some kind of moral or spiritual authority Jesus would never have himself conferred.
Loving your neighbor, feeding the hungry, forgiving your enemy, embracing humility – you can do all those things “in the name of Jesus” and come out of it OK. Claim some kind of “Jesus stamp of approval” on your politics and your foolishness is laid bare for all to see.
As a person of faith I will be prayerful before I cast my vote. I’m not the least bit ashamed or embarrassed to share with anyone who asks how my relationship with Christ influences my personal and political opinions. But the power of my faith isn’t about sidling up close to any messiah for the purpose of acquiring an imprimatur on my politics. If anything, Jesus reminds me how dangerously close political celebrity and certainty comes to idolatry. It’s important to remember this in seasons when all kinds of operatives are at work, most of whom are looking to capture so much more than just our vote.