If we say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then the Scriptures would be the pool of knowledge that, when applied, will give us that wisdom. In the context of democracy, the Bible is a treasure trove of knowledge filled with failed democracies and really successful ones. That said, let us dive into the depth of Biblical portrayal of democracy and evaluate its implications on the future of democracy.
Current politics focus a lot on winning the hearts of people. Tactics used in the political arena includes choosing people with charisma, shaming opponents, and conducting activities to engage the people. These tactics, though proven successful, does not lead to a lasting political standing. Most people who win the approval of residents through such means often find themselves at a loss on how to manage the country. Just… Take Trump for example. You get what I mean.
The Example of Absalom
The Bible is filled with people who won people through such tactics. Take Absalom for example. In order to overthrow King David, Absalom started a political party for himself by standing by the side of the road leading to the city gate and winning the hearts of people saying that if had the opportunity to judge the land, he would represent them (2 Samuel 15:1-6). With that, Absalom stole the hearts of the nation within four years and overthrew King David. However, as the Scriptures recorded, Absalom did not manage to stay in power as he was betrayed by his own trusted advisors (2 Samuel 17:14).
So it appears that you need a strong and able political party behind you if you ever run for office. That is, we need to know people who are wise and conversant about the running of a country and an organisation. Without it, no matter how charismatic you are, we are unfit to lead a nation.
The Example of the Jewish Ruling Council
Another group of people in the Bible had a strong institutional backing that enabled them to maintain their political presence till this day. Though their powers were not entirely concentrated in national politics until recent years, they have been guarding strict religious laws till this day. I’m referring to the Jewish institution.
As we recall how Jesus was crucified, we can’t help but see how the Jewish ruling council orchestrated the entire event. From spreading conspiracies about everything Jesus said since the beginning of His ministry, to the very end where they stirred the hearts of the public to want the crucifixion of Christ, we got to admit that the Pharisees won the hearts of the people and played the game of democracy really well. They had charisma, they spread hatred, they shamed Christ, and engaged the people with religious adherence. And more importantly, they also had a strong institutional backing behind them.
To the Pharisees, Jesus Christ was a threat to the established institution. They had an establish way of life and an established way of governance. And they want to keep that. Think, ruling party being threatened by the opposition party. That was the context of the situation.
While they managed to get their way by crucifying Christ, the guilt of crucifying an innocent man still remains in their hearts and minds till this very day. The guilt of winning a political battle with unlawful means stuck with them in the spirit. Worse, because they were not open for discourse with the opposition, they exchanged generations of spiritual growth for generations of spiritual stagnation. Now, we do not want that in modern politics. We want to engage in critical analysis and growth. We want progress. We want advancement. We need to acknowledge that the established institutions did help us grow till where we are. However, on the other hand, we also need improvement and change.
The Example of Pilate
We all knew the story of the man who sentenced Jesus to the cross. We all knew his struggles. As the Bible put it very plainly for us to read saying, “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”” (Matthew 27:24, NIV).
We often associate Pilate as the man who gave in to the crowd without considering for what was right. But as we read the Text, we often take for granted the immense stress that he was under. All political leaders will know the stress of being sandwiched between their people and a higher authority. In the context of Pilate, the higher authority was Caesar. The Bible tells us that the crowd accuses Jesus of “subverting our nation” (Luke 23:2). If Pilate were to let Jesus go, then he would be charged for supporting the subversion of the ruling party. On the other hand, if Pilate crucify Jesus, he knew that his name will forever be stained with guilt. In essence, he won the battle but lost the war.
In modern political context, we often see how political decisions were undermined by a higher authority — the international community. Take for example when China chooses to be Socialist, what did the international community do? Were there any form of shaming, subtle or confrontational? Take for example when Singapore decided to continue the death penalty and execute drug offenders, what did the international community do? Take for example when Philippine’s president Duterte declared a war on drugs, what did the international community do?
Leaders are often sandwiched between the people and the higher authorities. Understanding this, we can see why leaders are often forced to take sides. Now, both sides are not pleasant. So authorities are often faced with a catch.
If a leader leads by pleasing both the higher authorities and the people, the country will go into an unhealthy downward loop. The leader will end up offering the people with everything they wanted as well as adhering to what the international community expects of them. If we are just letting the people deciding what’s best for them without giving it much thought, then what good is it for the people? Remember the Golden Calf? All the people came to Aaron and asked him to make gods for them. Aaron, in an attempt to control the crowd, let the people get what they want. Then what happened?
The Example of Jesus Christ
Jesus was in every way a political leader even though He did not brand Himself that way. He had charisma, He engages the people, He challenged established institutions, and most importantly, He knew what He stood for.
Jesus was a political leader who ensured that His followers knew what they are signing up for. He did not want to build a party through feel-good tactics nor with public shaming. Though He had charisma, He did not use it to His advantage. Rather, He focused solely on what He stood for. Everything God told Him to say, He said. Everything God told Him to do, He did. He did all these just to drive His point at the people. He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Luke 14:27, Mark 8:34)… And they will gain eternal life (John 10:28, 1 John 2:25).
Because of this, Jesus made sure that His followers knew what He was talking about and accepted Him for the teachings that He stood for. He did not want people to follow Him blindly. Rather, He wanted people to know exactly what they are signing up for.
When Jesus shared that He is the bread of life and that people must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to get eternal life, His followers responded by saying, “this is hard teaching” and left Him. After which, Jesus turned to His most trusted 12 disciples and asked if they are leaving also (John 6:25-70). From this alone, we are able to see how much Jesus cared about the Words of God and His calling. He was a political leader who knew exactly what He stood for. Even if it meant losing the entire party, He still stood by His teachings and His policies. In context, His policies were global salvation from sin. While modern political parties might not be as noble, modern political parties should still aim to offer people a better way of living; salvation from whatever pains they are currently going through. If we aren’t offering salvation, why contest?
In modern politics, we should be strong in our policies. Not saying that we should forgo winning the hearts of followers. Rather, we are saying that we should engage actively in discourse with the public. Just as Jesus went from places to places to teach, so should we go from house to house to engage people and to share about our policies. We should not stop when we win votes. Rather, we should ensure that the choices people make were informed. If they aren’t, we should stay with them to educate people about what’s most important. This is evident when the Samaritans told the Samaritan woman that, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42, NIV).
To Jesus, votes and supporters aren’t enough. Jesus wanted people to know what Salvation is. Salvation is the thing that continued Jesus’ legacy till this very day and age. In the modern political context, salvation is the policies that will grant people a better livelihood. Salvation is a framework for harmony. Salvation is a framework that will ensure equality. Salvation is a framework that will ensure equal chances opportunities. Salvation is a framework that will secure people’s livelihood for as long as they live. Salvation is also about understanding global politics and how national policies can enable citizens to gain a competitive edge in the global arena. In politics, we need to bring the gospel of salvation to the people. We need a political Messiah.Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
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