As Mike Huckabee said a while back, “Jesus was way too smart to run for political office.” Isn’t that the truth. One certainly sympathizes with the candidates having to reinvent themselves about once every few days to appeal to different constituencies of voters. Indeed, Jesus didn’t run for political office. In fact, he said that his kingdom was not of this world. This doesn’t mean he was so otherworldly that he was of no earthly good. To the contrary, he was well aware of people’s anxieties and preoccupation with existential necessities. He was critical of those who hoarded wealth while failing to consider the needs of others or to make preparations for their eternal destiny. He urged some who came to him to sell all their possessions to give to the poor. Thus while not running for political office, Jesus was interested in matters of economics and (voluntary) economic redistribution.
Not only did Jesus not run for office, he also did not endorse political candidates. Yet he was concerned about matters of righteousness and character. He excoriated the leaders of his day for their phoniness and hypocrisy and urged them to repent. He exhorted them to be honest, unselfish, God-fearing, Christ-believing, and authentic, calling on them to strive for consistency in the way they lived. Flip-floppers and phonies were anathema, as were those who compromised righteousness and morality in either the public policy arena or their personal beliefs and practices. Jesus also stayed above partisan politics. His aims were spiritual and transcended the affairs of this world. In the end, the leaders of both major parties of his day conspired, in an alliance of political expediency, to get rid of him. This did not catch Jesus by surprise. He expected no less. His trust was not in any human party or institution, for he had a realistic appraisal of human sinfulness and the fickleness of the crowds who could be won by promises of having their immediate needs met.
Jesus’ own vision transcended mere human earthly existence. Of course, he was no politician. But he set before people a vision that was grand and inspiring and able to capture their imagination. He was very good one-on-one, and could convince individuals to leave their previous occupation and follow him. He was able to connect with people and spoke their language. He talked about things that mattered to people rather than speaking in abstract terms. This is all the more remarkable as he was the Son of God who had come to earth from above. His identification with the people to whom he came to minister was complete. In fact, he came to serve them rather than recruiting them in order to help him meet his own objectives and selfish ambitions.
The purpose of this brief sketch, which is impressionistic at best and certainly anything but complete, is not to present Jesus as the “exemplary candidate.” Perhaps, though, reading through these reflections can serve as a prism refracting some light on the candidates in the present primary season. Which candidate(s) reflect Christlikeness in any (or several) of the areas mentioned in their demeanor and approach? Which candidate(s) look more like the people Jesus denounced as unrighteous or hypocritical? There is not, nor ever will be, a perfect candidate. We should not put any of the present or future candidates on a pedestal. But for those who are eligible to vote there is a choice to be made. Few of us will ever run for political office. But as we vote, as Christians, we ought to use Christian criteria in making our determination in choosing the best candidate. In this regard, as in any other matter in the Christian life, there is no better criterion than the character and values of Jesus.