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Jesus on the Campaign Trail

Jesus on the Campaign Trail

Imagine what followers of Jesus Christ can do in the 2008 election. Don’t imagine taking America back for Christ. Don’t imagine flexing our muscle as a voting bloc. And don’t imagine voting our values at the ballot box. Imagine changing the way Christians involved in politics are perceived.

For too long, followers of Jesus on our TV screens and radios have given the impression that all we care about is winning elections. They’ve slung mud and engaged in the politics of personal destruction, buying into the lie that the ends justify the means as long as our guy gets elected. And we’ve refused to demand more from them or our candidates.

But this scene hasn’t just played out on our TV screens and radios. It’s played out in coffee shops and across dinner tables. We–average followers of Jesus who have never been on TV or been called by a pollster–have gossiped about candidates. We’ve called them names, impugned their character and thought less of those who supported someone candidate other than ours. We’ve rationalized our sin by telling ourselves that we can say what we want as long as it is true. We’ve refused to demand more from ourselves.

The result of our undisciplined political posturing is that the name and reputation of Jesus has been damaged far more severely than the name and reputation of any politician. It is time for that to change. It is time for me to change.

This year, I am taking a pledge, making a commitment. And I am asking you to join me. I am committing myself to reflect the values of Jesus throughout the campaign, not just to vote them on Election Day. In my heart, in my mind and on my lips, I want the ideals of Jesus to be present and obvious. It is Jesus and his reputation that will be most important to me in 2008.

Like any politician today, Jesus’ personal approval ratings during His time on earth would have varied depending on who you talked to. Some thought that He was a prophet reincarnated. Others thought He was a trouble-maker. The establishment was threatened by His rhetoric. And the populist throngs loved His bread-and-fish-for-everyone displays. It seemed like few understood Him, but everyone took notice of Him.

One of His followers, John, tells us what people noticed about Jesus: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 TNIV). Jesus was full of grace and truth. He was not known for His political savvy or for how connected He was. He was not defined by a list of policy positions. Jesus was defined by grace and truth.

How different this is from the current state of American politics. People gravitate to those who agree with them. Anyone with a different perspective is held with suspicion rather than respect. Vitriol has replaced common decency. Name-calling has supplanted civility. And, in this regard, there is not a shred of difference between followers of Jesus and those who are not.

In addition to being full of grace, Jesus was also full of truth. Jesus did not shy away from hard subjects or from saying things that might offend people. He told Nicodemus that Nicodemus’ whole approach to pleasing God had to change. And to the woman by the well, he highlighted her serial marriages. Jesus said what He said because it needed to be heard. Facing the truth with honesty and humility is the path to faith and repentance.

Yet truth seems to be a forgotten commodity in today’s political culture. A scandalous rumor can be passed easily from the Drudge Report to a church’s small group without any verification. By the time the story is proven untrue, the damage has already been done. Unwanted and unwarranted labels are used to create a caricature of a candidate without concern for the fairness or validity. And again, followers of Jesus are not exempt from this behavior.

Imagine what would happen to the reputation of Jesus if millions of people who claim to be his followers refused to follow conventional political wisdom and instead followed the wisdom found in the example of their Lord? Could it be that if Christians refused to go negative, people might think more positively of Jesus? Could it be that the best way to change the country and the world is to change ourselves?

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m commiting myself to reflect the values of grace and truth throughout the 2008 political campaign.

In my heart, I will care more about what people think of Jesus than what they think of the candidate I support.

In my mind, I will focus on what is right, admirable and praise-worthy in each of the candidates.

With my lips, I will speak with truth and graciousness about all involved in the 2008 campaign, including every candidate and every candidate’s spouse, refusing to engage in gossip, rumor, sarcasm, innuendo or petty name-calling.

Regardless of political and policy difference, I will remain committed to living the values of Jesus throughout this campaign season.

What are you going to do?

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