Again, the devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”—Matthew 4:8-9
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? –Romans 6:1-2
As Christians our first allegiance is to God’s Kingdom. Our first responsibility is to live according to God’s laws. Not to try to forcibly impose God’s laws on other people, for this is impossible, but to live by God’s laws to the best of our understanding and ability, and to live in a way that draws others to voluntarily take on the responsibilities of Kingdom citizens.
We are still citizens of America as well, responsible for practicing neighbor-love politically as well as personally. But as Kingdom citizens we are reminded that the end does not justify the means. If we break God’s laws in our zeal to secure what we see as right governance, we have done real harm in pursuit of an imaginary good. We have stopped behaving as followers of God and started trying to usurp God’s place.
As Kingdom citizens we may not use violence. Neither the literal violence advocated by a few people in the case of the ‘wrong’ person winning, nor rage and contempt, which Jesus equates with murder in the Sermon on the Mount. As Kingdom citizens we may not distort the truth, or point out the specks in others’ eyes before removing the beams from our own.
Some might say that these are impossibly idealistic restrictions to place on politics. Probably no major party will adopt them in the near future. But there is no hindrance to our adopting them as we talk and work with our neighbors who may disagree with us.
And these restrictions do not leave us powerless. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7, ‘For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” There is great power in a life lived with faithfulness and integrity, and in the words which arise from such a life. Sometimes this power brings great changes in government, as in the movement for independence which Gandhi led. Sometimes it simply maintains that reserve of decency and competence without which no community and no nation can thrive. Sometimes it seems to fail; but that is in the hands of God, who brings new life even in the midst of death.