Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas,[a] and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’-Luke 19:11-14
“For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”-Luke 19:26
It seems like the wrong person is always getting elected. This is often coupled with the fact that he or she always belongs to the party that we oppose vehemently.
With every new president, some things get better and others worse. It doesn’t matter who they are or their party affiliation. It is a cycle of life just like everything in nature. It goes on independently of the presidents and the politicians. We spend our time investing our passions and energy on something that just happens naturally. Jesus definitely did not participate in it. When he was asked about his political affiliation, Jesus simply responded, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jewish authorities: but now is my kingdom not from hence (John 18:36).”
Each election cycle tends to bring out the worst in people and we have to ask ourselves this important question; what is our role as Christians in all of this? It is understandable that those who do not subscribe to the Christian faith put their faith and hope in this political reality. They believe that this material kingdom is the be-all and end-all. They judge it as the foundation and basis for all endeavors and even perhaps their access to God or some sort of spirituality; not unlike those who attempted to construct the Tower of Babel. As Christians, we know the end of this story: utter chaos. We should also be wary of any talk about utopia or greatness or unity. All these illusionary goals can indeed become dangerous idols. Without God, none of this is possible. However, having said this, God does not need our manipulation to achieve them in this world. Historically, political entities that have attempted to establish utopian-like existence have resulted in many disastrous things. When we unite people without true love and God’s grace, we need a common enemy or a scapegoat to hate. Hatred for a common enemy becomes the basis for unity or utopian societies. This is not just an opinion; there has been extensive study on this done by a renown sociologist and philosopher, Rene Girard, in his major work, The Scapegoat. Nothing good comes out of this. If we want peace and greatness, then politics is definitely not the way to achieve this, especially the kind of politics presented by this world through its deceiving media. As Christians, we should ask ourselves; why do we insist on constructing the Tower of Babel when the inevitable result is chaos? Perhaps, we should focus on something more concrete as Christians. There is more to life than politics. The people in the text above asked Jesus a political question and Jesus responded with a parable. It wasn’t the answer that they were expecting.
We also have lived through a tumultuous political period in the Brazil in the past few months. A couple of months ago, sirens and helicopters were constantly heard from our apartment because of riots and protest. These were daily occurrences. However, everyday whenever we went to the streets, it was business as usual for thousands of people. The political climate did not change the basic reality of the everyday people. Eventually the protests died down and everyone realized that politics was just getting in the way of everyday life. I would say that this is not true politics. It is the media trying to stir up dissent and strife while pretending to be purveyors of the truth. What they say has very little to do with everyday life. When the people asked Jesus about the coming of Kingdom of God, they wanted to hear media politics. Jesus gave them an answer, showing them something completely different. He revealed how to be really political in the Kingdom of God.
I would recommend reading this parable in its entirety.
It was strange that Jesus would use a ruthless nobleman as the protagonist. In other places, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was not like the kingdom of this world and yet the nobleman in this parable was very much like the princes of this world. Therefore, we can take it to understand that the nobleman is not a definitive depiction of God. I believe that his role is used to emphasize the chasm between those who are in the “know” and those are not in this political system. This system operates on violence and dominance and Jesus presented it as such. It does not mean that he condones it. Whatever the noble does is beyond the control of the servants but they are not helpless spectators. The interactions between the noble and his subjects are nothing out of the ordinary in this parable. He behaves exactly the same way as any king of his time. It wasn’t a democracy: it was a tyranny. Even in such hostile conditions, we, as servants of God, are not helpless. We can still be real participants in the political life of the God’s kingdom. It has everything to do with using our gifts that God has given to us.
I have to confess that I find it tedious when people say that they feel blessed to born in such and such place whenever they hear the plight of the poor in other countries. Their criteria for being blessed is material wealth. This is fine for someone who is not a Christian or rather, for those who are not interested in being a citizen in God’s kingdom. However, true blessing is gauged by our application of the gifts that God has given us to do something productive for the Kingdom of God. Saying that we are blessed and doing absolutely nothing is very much like being the the servant who said, “Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief.”(Luke 19:20). God does not need to be reminded that He has given us something we can share. He wants to know how we use what we are given for the greater good.
We have heard countless of times that the world is promoting a culture of death. It has said been so many times that it has become a cliche. Electing politicians into office is not the way to avoid suicidal traits in society. If anything, it would be the weakest way to counteract against the tragic trajectory of the world. Policies are not going to bring the hope of life into the hearts of people. Material wealth does not going to bring joy: if so, suicide rates would be the lowest in wealthiest countries, but the opposite is true. Only the gospel can bring hope and joy. God has given us the gifts that we can use within our capacity to promote the culture of life that the gospel proclaims. It is not just voting pro-life which may be just a tactic of media politics. The Kingdom of God demands that our lives promote the joy of life in others through loving them. Loving others is not pointing out the mistakes in others but living our lives in a way that would make our neighbors desire to know the life and person of Jesus who is the foundation of our hope and joy.
This week, Ruan surprised us. He invited us to go to his house with him. It was the first time in three years that we got such an invitation. He informed us that he told his family about it and they were open to the idea. We have known Ruan for a while now and he hardly mentions anything of his family. Suddenly a letter from a church member in Florida is opening all kinds of doors. He wanted to send a picture of his family to this person and this was the main reason for our invitation. We met his mother and sisters. We did not know that Ruan had a new step-father whom he mentioned minutes before we got to his house. He was also very excited to introduce us to his grandfather who is just a few years older than us. It seems like he is the most consistent male presence in his life. The house was small but it was cramped with things. It contained most of the modern conveniences including a large TV. Ruan’s mother was mad that he preferred to sleep in the streets than at home. She believes that she provides everything to entice him to stay at home but he just refuses. He did not say much but he wanted to tell his mother about us and that he was learning to read and write. Unfortunately his mother was too busy being mad at him to listen to him. It was a little tense and we decided to ease the tension by taking pictures and explaining why he wanted to take them. It was our first visit and I don’t foresee any future visits unless Ruan initiates it. This first visit was important for him. He wanted us to meet his family and we are glad that we did.
We don’t know why Ruan is in the streets. Besides having all the material conveniences, his house was tiny and they had more than five people in a space of a small living room. However, it wasn’t the lack of space that brought him to the streets. One thing we know for certain that no child in his or her right mind would want to be far away from her/his mother and sleep in the filthy streets. Ruan prefers the streets more than his home. Something happened to cause this. We cannot change this something. It is beyond our capacity. We cannot change his family dynamics. It is the way that they have learned to function in this life. They don’t see anything wrong and we have no right to tell them otherwise. However, there is something that we can do. We can show Ruan that he is indeed a valuable person to us. We have the capacity to care and love him within our limitations. To do this, we don’t need the approval of the government; we don’t need a proper social and political climate or the ideal family situation. All we need is to recognize God’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others. However, we cannot do this work alone. We need the participation of others who are interested in Kingdom politics and not media-frenzy spectator politics. Real godly politics is where people reach and touch the hearts of their neighbors and help them see Life. From what I have been seeing, partisan politics regardless of which side we choose, promotes death; death of relationship, death of love and death of intelligence.
I am not saying all political systems are the same. Some systems appear to build good towers of Babel, but they can never be the Kingdom of God. This is a Kingdom of Grace and Love. It is not brought about by our workings. It is given to us through the person of Jesus. We did not vote Him into office but He chose us. He has given us the power to be His instruments of Life in this world. One day, He is going to ask each one of us what we have done with our gifts. We hope that on this faithful day, we can bring Ruan forward and say, “Our gifts have taught us to see the beauty of Life in this little child.”
This, my faithful Christians, is the culture of the Kingdom of God.