Jesus isn’t on the ballot, and if he was you probably wouldn’t vote for him

Lina Kivaka

So, it’s election week. As a legal alien, i.e. a documented non-citizen, I can’t vote this election year. Maybe in 2024. Regardless, I’m sort of relieved I’m not faced with the choice this year. The state of American democracy these days is complicated enough to fatigue even the most politically-acute millennial, and I am neither one of these things.

On a serious note, I have seen countless comments (and rebuttals) about choosing to ‘vote Jesus’ this election. I’m not quite sure what this means. Jesus is one, not on the ballot, and two, neither political parties wholly represent Jesus’ life or teachings. Perhaps what people mean is ‘vote for the most Jesus-adjacent party’? Or maybe ‘vote for the party that sits most comfortably with your version of Christianity’?

Honestly, we could spend hours deliberating over what this election-year evangelical cliché really means. But, I’d like to clear something up. Jesus isn’t on the ballot. Even if he was, I doubt most people who believe they would vote for him actually would.

If we take a stroll back to the New Testament, it’s clear in the Gospels that Jesus’ entire gig was sacrificial living. His very first miracle in John 2, albeit the best wedding gift ever for those who don’t mind a bit of bubbly, was a miraculous answer to a couple’s desperate prayer and even more desperate need.

When Jesus called his first followers in Matthew 4, he didn’t allure them with fame, and riches, or lower taxes. What he gave them was vision and purpose. He turned fishermen into fishers of men. (1–0 to New Testament puns)

And at the moment that changed humanity as he hung on the cross, he died for a world that would scoff at him, mock him, and at times render his life to colonial folklore. Thinkers like Sam Harris would have you believe that Jesus’ death was the most widely (and incorrectly) praised human sacrifice ever recorded. They would be correct if Jesus was indeed just a man. But he was not. Hello, hypostatic union.

Jesus’ sacrifice is a clear image of what life as a Christian looks like when we’re no longer preoccupied with our government-given ‘rights’, political correctness, or comfortability. Christ’s life is more than the current realities of American democracy and discourse about immigration, abortion, and tax laws. His death and consequent resurrection are the perfect images of divine love and wisdom manifest on earth.

But this isn’t about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Or maybe in a sense it is, for how can we ‘vote’ Jesus if we do not understand his life? And how can we understand his life without acknowledging his death and resurrection?

When we find ourselves at the foot of the cross, it becomes clear that Christianity is so much more than what we have made it to mean in the West. We have allowed American orthodoxy and contemporary libertarianism to take the place of Christ-led sacrificial living. We have banalised the message of the Gospel by making Scriptures into clichés and prizing packed arenas over deep and authentic discipleship.

Many of us in the West have been ill-informed in thinking that by voting for a political party that broadly reflects ‘Christian family values’ or for a party that more acutely addresses issues of inequality and social injustice, we are doing the Lord’s work. We need not flatter ourselves. We, like millions of others casting their votes, are simply performing our civic duties.

The Lord’s work starts in our workplaces, schools, and [segregated] neighbourhoods and counties. The Lord’s work starts in our prisons, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. The Lord’s work starts anywhere there is an unjust need and ends when He returns in glory, not on November 3rd.

I have already said that Jesus isn’t on the ballot. But if for a moment we imagine that he was, what life would we be choosing for ourselves if we did indeed vote for the Messiah?

‘Voting Jesus’ would mean choosing sacrifice over compromise. It would mean choosing love over hate. It would mean choosing forgiveness over vengeance. It would mean choosing generosity over security. It would mean choosing peace over profit, and justice over comfort. It would mean choosing purpose over potential, and trust over fear.

Fortunately for us, it doesn’t take ‘voting Jesus’ for these life postures to become our realities. Jesus’ life is more than a political statement. Likewise, the presence or absence of his name in a political party or on the ballot sheet doesn’t change anything about how we as believers should live.

The question is, how many of us are truly committed to living a life of sacrifice, unmitigated love, forgiveness, generosity, purpose, peace, or trust?

The next time we are tempted to think that in voting one way or another, we are one step further in living out the Christian walk, we should do ourselves a favour and think again. For small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. And if it isn’t clear by now, it isn’t on the ballot sheet.

A personal page. Mostly my thoughts about life, race, gender, and theology. Believer. Millennium baby. Cambridge, UK/ATL. BlackLivesMatter.

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