I was raised in a Mennonite denomination in the United States. We were not like the conservative Mennonites, many of whom, I do not believe, participated in the political process. Many of our number did on election days. But that's about where it ended. Of course another spectrum of Mennonites let their voices be heard for a pacifist stance that they believe should go beyond Christians to governments of this world. At least in influencing them towards peace.
What about us, of the Jesus community? What is our place and responsibility in the world of government and politics? Are we to participate, and if so, how?
I have to acknowledge that after years of separation from my anabaptist heritage, I find myself drawn back to it, Biblically and theologically when considering the kingdom that in Jesus, we are a part of. It is not rooted in this world. But from another place. (John 18) Yet it is to bear influence on this world. (Matthew 5-7) But as those whose citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians)
I believe that we Christians have largely fallen into a worldly way of thinking that is part of the old era that is passing away. Instead we should think and live in the new way, and in the new age, that, in Jesus, is already present. In doing so, we are to be a light to help others, even nations and governments. Even if in the end they have to answer for the rejection of the light they had through Christ followers. But hopefully, being influenced towards good seen in the society of this kingdom of God come, in Jesus. I am not saying we have to take a pacifist stance. Though I am inclined in that direction.
What does this mean? It means that by our lives of love to God and to our neighbor ("the Jesus creed") we are showing a better way. The way that does win out in the end. The way that Jesus brings in God's work of reconciliation in him. For us, in Jesus and in the Jesus community this means the way of the cross. But as we take this way, being obedient to Jesus' calling to us (Matthew 5-7), we serve as a light to the nations, not only to bring people to personal faith in Jesus, but to influence governments for good. We are engaged with reference to both personal and systemic evil.
This position is inherent with all kinds of issues and problems. For example, what about police action? What about military action when tyrants are running renegade engaged in genocide such as we see happening in Africa? Good Christians will continue to disagree here, as I see it. At this point I can't deny that the state has a certain function of carrying out God's wrath/judgment against such evil doers. At the same time I don't think we can get away from the influence that we're to bring, not only on individuals and families and those in the Jesus community. But even on governments. We, as the Jesus community, should be a microcosm of what the kingdom of God is.
This seems ambitious and impossible. And indeed, impractical, and to many Christians even unjustified in light of Jesus' predictions that there will be wars and rumors of wars, that an Armageddon is to come. That the world will never have real peace until the Prince of peace returns in person to reign.
But we are called to be nothing less than a light. Not a light of this world. But a light of another world. The light of the world in Jesus. This means a proclamation and full living out of the gospel of the kingdom of God. In that is certainly the grace of God in Christ, in his death and resurrection. And with that God's reconciliation of the world to himself in Christ. But it doesn't stop at just getting people saved. It goes on to call nations and governments to live and conduct their affairs in light of this new kingdom.
If this is really Scriptural, and if all Christians embraced and lived out this vision in a substantial way, could we expect the world to be largely converted (some kind of postmillennialism)? Would this hasten our Lord's return (2 Peter 3)? We don't know. But surely much good could be accomplished. Look at how one person, Mother Teresa, influenced not only Christians but even governments by her simple and profound following of Jesus. Charles Colson's prison ministry is having a profound effect, not only on many prisoners, but on how this institution is viewed by many of those in government.
Father, Let us be envisioned and live out what we are in Jesus in this world, a light. Let us not succumb to or participate in the darkness. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.