By Jenny Smith
Someone recently taught me the original intent of the word, politics, and it has changed my perception of how politics can help us in our life together.
Politics comes from the Greek word, politikas, meaning affairs of the cities. It’s how we arrange our common life together. Politics is a good word. Did water come out of your faucet this morning? This is politics at work. Someone was appointed, voted, elected to serve on a board or municipality or council that hired someone to make sure water flowed from the right source to your home.
When people say, “I’m just not into politics,” are you not into water, food, roads? We cannot separate ourselves from politics. We must reclaim politics as a good word. Maybe you’ve been told, “you’re getting political,” when you’ve mentioned an issue our society is wrestling with. There’s a belief right under the surface that politics and religion are fully separate entities from each other.
Jesus did not operate like this. Jesus was political.
This distinction in modern times of separating religion and politics didn’t exist in Jesus’ day. Hebrew prophets were seen as dangerous to political authorities as they leveled judgment against greed and corruption wherever they saw it – the marketplace, the royal court or the temple. Both John the Baptist and Jesus continue the tradition of calling those in authority to live honorable lives and work for the common good. Both of them threatened Rome and the status quo.
Jesus had little regard for social conventions that supported the status quo. He didn’t marry and lived an abnormal lifestyle for a Jewish adult of the time. He redefined his “family” as those who do the will of God. Jesus challenged a system over and over regarding who’s in and who’s out.
Every day, we are invited to talk with and listen to people with whom we disagree. As followers of Jesus, we don’t get to be polarized. We are literally told to love our enemies. This will sound unrealistic and irrelevant to some. But the person of faith, whose inward journey opens their life to the explosive love of God, knows that this vision is the most real of all.
What if the person on the “other side” of the issue is fully capable of becoming and bringing the good news of Jesus? May it be so.
Jenny Smith, pastor of United Methodist Church in Marysville, writes a monthly faith column for these newspapers.