“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”.
With that one statement in John 1:46, we have an example of prejudice in the New Testament. I can imagine Nathanael’s half-smirk and cynical tone, as his brother, Philip, mentions about Jesus. In Nathanael’s mind, somebody worthy enough to follow should come from the right tribe, the right area, or with the right pedigree.
Flash forward to present times.
The same prejudice is unfortunately rampant within a community that is traditionally defined by its love, inclusivity, and compassion. It may not be formally acceptable to discriminate against a particular gender, ethnic group, race, or country – but there is one area that is widely acceptable for prejudice and hatred to exist in broad daylight. Even as Christians. Replace Nazareth from Nathanel’s statement with a certain political party that you totally dislike, and say it out loud. It probably feels absolutely normal for you – you probably have a list of justifications why you think that the statement is true.
I watch with anguish when I see Christians in the western countries who would put political parties above the Word of God. They would conveniently ignore 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” when their President or Prime Minister is elected from the wrong political party. Perhaps they would still pray for them, but instead of thanksgiving and blessings, they passionately ask for God’s judgment, fire, and brimstone.
The verses in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 say nothing about heaping criticisms or judgments. We should bless our leaders, even if we disagree with them – and even if we suffer persecutions under them. As a former Indonesian, Christians in Indonesia have learned to do this. We learn to bless our Governors, Presidents through persecutions, hardships, and discriminations. We know that we cannot rely on a single political party to survive or flourish. We can only rely on God. In developed countries – say, the US or Australia – Christians are only quick and willing to bless and forgive leaders who we agree with. Tribalism has set its deep roots, and is indeed, welcome.
A dear friend of mine who has since passed away was an ardent supporter of a certain political party. He was from Texas. He loved to post critical posts – warranted or not – during Obama years. Never a gracious post was presented about him or the political party. I would also cringe when he posted about Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. Admittedly, there was something in his youth that cemented his hatred towards the other political party. However, as a pastor, he also conveniently dismissed me when I reminded him of 1 Timothy 2:1-4. I asked him – who would pray for the President, if committed Christians would only pray for and bless leaders from their favoured party? I also said that we would all share the burden for wrong decisions or policies that were truly against Godly principles. We haven’t really been that obedient in blessing our leaders.
In an ideal situation, Christians should apply the same measuring stick for leaders from any political parties. If we conveniently and graciously forgive marital indiscretions, corruptions, lewdness, fund misappropriations for leaders from a favoured political party, we should also extend the same grace for leaders from any other political parties. If we harshly rebuke a President or a Prime Minister from an opposing party, then we should also provide the same corrections for leaders from the favoured party.
I may be totally naïve, but I could only hope for a day when Christians stop using un-Christian words and posts when describing leaders from opposing political parties and gleefully wait for the moments when they trip and fall. I could only hope for a day when Christians graciously pray and bless the leaders for the wisdom to lead, regardless of their political party, pedigree, or tribe. When we express our critical rebukes, people will pay attention as they would be given without favouritism.
I am hopeful for the moments when Christians really be the light and salt, and don’t choose when to be salty or not depending on the current ruling party. I would much prefer Christians who can shine and continue to bless the leader and yet provide the same measuring stick regardless of where the leader comes from, whether God appoints and allows a blue, a red, a green, or a polkadot leader. At the moment, we are very quick to judge and ask for responsibility on the less-favoured leaders, and more than happy to bless and forgive (and actually provide an absolution) to leaders who we like.
In the Bible, we see numerous examples when Jesus really disagrees with the prejudice that we hold. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and the parables of the Good Samaritan come to mind.
You may consider me an unrealistic idealist – but I’m sure I’m not a voice of one. I can only wish when an interest group or a political party does not hide under the façade of Christianity, with the guise of upholding the Word of God – but deep inside, it’s just preserving partisanship and self-preservation. “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:33.