Religion & politics are highly charged topics in most cultures & many of us wonder if the Bible offers any wisdom as we navigate this tension.
The Way of the Exile
If followers of Jesus are to give their total allegiance to God’s Kingdom, how should they relate to the governments and power structures of their own day? In this video, we’ll see how the experience of Daniel and his friends in Babylonian exile offers wisdom for navigating this tension. Following Jesus in the 21st century means learning the way of the exile.
One of the most difficult issues facing Christians of any culture or time is how to support, resist, or participate in the governing power structures of their day. Should followers of Jesus endorse any political movement that is or isn’t religious? What are the dangers of joining our allegiance to Jesus with loyalty to any nation or government? Religion and politics are highly-charged topics in most cultures, and many of us wonder if the Bible has any wisdom to offer as we navigate this tension.
It turns out that the Bible has immense resources for God’s people on this topic.
But it comes in the form of a narrative, not a series of direct commands. The Bible tells the story of God’s purpose to rule the world through his image-bearing creatures. The picture of humanity’s "home” is a garden-mountain-temple in Eden, where we steward God’s world and further its beauty in harmonious partnership with our Creator. And this all sounds awesome until the humans rebel and create kingdoms that elevate their own wisdom and values that demand total allegiance. In the Bible, the key image that symbolizes human autonomy and rebellion is the city of Babylon introduced in Genesis 11.
For the rest of the biblical story, the image of humanity trapped in Babylonian exile becomes a dominant theme. Abraham and his family are called out of this region to journey to the new promised land, but his later descendants end up back in Babylonian exile after a long history of rebellion. And there in Babylon, we find many books of the Bible focusing on the paradoxical situation of God’s people...
Resistance vs. Submission
Should they withdraw and cloister in a holy-huddle, or should they participate in Babylon’s culture to become God’s agents of blessing? The books of Jeremiah and Daniel offer a surprising perspective by telling us stories of Israelites who were both loyal and subversive to Babylon. They offered their best efforts to seek the well-being of Babylon, while also critiquing and resisting its idolatry of power.
Jesus calls us to respond in kind.
When we turn to the New Testament, we find Jesus adopting this same posture and mindset toward the power structures of Rome and Israel in his own day, and he taught his disciples to do the same. This why Peter in his first letter calls followers of Jesus “foreigners and exiles,” and says that the “church is in Babylon” (1 Peter 1:1). And when he talks about how Christians should relate to the governing powers of their day, he describes a way of life that is similar to the stories of Daniel and Jesus (1 Peter 2:13-25).
Followers of Jesus offer their ultimate allegiance to their risen King, and they are to critique any kingdom that exalts its own values and power to the place of God. But at the same time, they are to seek peace and offer their best efforts to the communities in which they live. This is loyalty and subversion energized by the hope that one day King Jesus will return and replace our Babylons with his eternal Kingdom.
While the Bible doesn’t give a simple answer to this complex set of issues, it does give us a story to live by as we seek to be loyal to Jesus and his Kingdom.
Continue Your Learning Journey
What was the exile all about, and why is the exile such a big deal?