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Politicians Don’t Redeem

11 July, 2008

“[Barack Obama’s] campaign represents the redemption of our country,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson in an apology to Sen. Obama.

Excuse me, but I never think of a president as a redeemer. Politics doesn’t redeem; it preserves a state of relative justice. Perhaps Rev. Jackson doesn’t mean what I’m reading into his comment. I am fully aware and realize that the term “redemption” can have many meanings, depending on context. I admit that there’s not much context to evaluate his statement. He didn’t fill in the details, but, as I take him and as I’ve heard others talk about Obama in coffee shops, Obama’s supporters regard him as a redemptive figure.

This type of thinking utterly confuses this world’s kingdom and Christ’s kingdom, the church. My impression is that many people look to government “to redeem” them from their afflictions. If by redeem, they mean, “to uphold standards of justice,” then I’m ambivalently ok with it — I guess. As far as the Bible is concerned, redemption is a more technical term, meaning “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.”

Redemption really is justice’s distant relative. That is, it has some relation to it. It presupposes something lost, something that needs to be regained. When the New Testament announces redemption in Jesus Christ, it has the covenant of works in its rear-view mirror, the one that Adam and Eve failed to obey. The command goes something like this: don’t eat the fruit or you’ll be cursed ultimately resulting in your death. Remember, Adam was to rule creation judiciously. Adam defected to Satan abdicating his throne in the garden. Every person as a result is in bondage to Satan and to sin.

Redemptive history took the place of judicial history, and human existence took a turn for the better. Thousands of years would pass, but Jesus eventually obeyed the Father in everything, and he conquered this enemy by raising himself from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. Can Obama or any world leader be perfect, fulfilling the rigorous standards of God’s law — to always love God and neighbor? Can he raise himself from the dead? Can he conquer death? My rhetorical questions aside, for the believer redemption is a reality. Jesus promised that his death frees them from sin’s enthrallment and that he would raise his children up on the last day.

Consequently, they are free from the bondage and eternal punishment of sin. And yet, temporal sin remains a terrible reality. Christians and non-Christians alike still have to face a physical death, an ever-present reminder of sin’s presence among us. One day, Christians will be totally free from this world’s penchant for its own lusts. Right now, they live a tense existence between two worlds. On Sunday (perhaps other days as well but primarily the Christian Sabbath), they gather together with God’s kingdom to find rest in the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. For them, there is no way to redemption except through Christ’s body — broken and raised for those who believe. The Sabbath is a day to taste the future weekly.

Surely God has ordained this world’s kingdoms to preserve relative justice. He even wants us to seek justice. I don’t ever recall a New Testament passage, when it speaks of civil governments, saying anything about redemption. It does tell us to pray for them that they will execute their office properly. We all enjoy some measure of it in this sin-stained world, and I’m all for seeking increased relative justice. We must remember that it will never be redemptive. It will never be perfect. I long for a day when I don’t have to reckon with my lusts and death. My family is going to die. As I’m sitting here typing this thought, I want to weep-especially for my unbelieving family. My hope has to wait for a better king, a better ‘politic’.

One day, I won’t have to weep. There will be no tears. A better Moses (Jesus) will come to confront the pharaohs of this world. Plagues will come on this world’s kingdom. Then he will judge this world with absolute justice. Those who have been bought by the blood of the lamb will be protected, finally redeemed and then led across the river into Canaan – a heavenly city – where there is no longer two kingdoms but one, eternal kingdom. The Bible assures us that our politics will be perfect; but we have to wait. We have to endure with long-suffering. We will suffer injustice, especially as Christians. Often we will contribute to injustice. Don’t fret! Your redeemer is also a righteous king, the son of an all-powerful judge, who rests his feet on the earth as his footstool.

No president or world leader can boast that.

  1. 11 July, 2008 9:27 am

    Great post Josh….I shudder when I think some think of Obama as a redeemer……

  2. 11 July, 2008 9:34 am

    Amen! Preach it brother!
    I’m starting to preach through Mark. Mark 1– the good news definetely wasn’t G. Bush. It’s not going to be Obama, J. Jackson, taking America back for Bahnsen, Rushdooney, Gentry, Moscow, not even a drop in gas prices or the cost of living. The gospel is about Jesus Christ the Son of God.

  3. 11 July, 2008 5:33 pm

    A word from our sponsors: Susan call me about the door. This comp can’t email and I finally broke my phone with like 50 phn numbers. So call my old number.

  4. Darren permalink
    16 July, 2008 1:26 am

    Of course, you’ve got evangelicals jumping on the Jesus for President bandwagon. I’m continually amazed at those who claim non-partisanship (or to be above politics) while simultaneously reducing the gospel to a political platform.

  5. 16 July, 2008 7:50 am

    anyone in mind?

  6. Joshua permalink
    16 July, 2008 8:02 am

    That’s interesting and equally troubling, Darren. Perhaps one of the questions that they’re failing to ask is this one: how can Jesus run for President if he’s bodily at the right hand of the Father and he doesn’t ally himself with any particular geopolitical region? Christ’s kingdom is not and never will be of this world.

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