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M. U. Adikwu

Politics At the Time of Christ
It should be clearly noted that politics existed at the time of Christ. In fact, many of the people who opposed him belonged to one party or the other. Israel operated a theocracy, and as a result of this, political parties had roots in religious ideas. It should, however, be noted that the
leadership of Israel at His time were not Israelites. Israel was being governed by the Roman people who had conquered them. Israel could be said at that time to belong to the Roman Empire. Some of the questions that were designed to trap Him had origin on whether he
opposed the foreign rulers or not. A good example was the one on the issue of taxation. He was asked whether it was lawful to pay tax to Caesar or not (Matthew 22:17). He was, however, quick and wise to tell them to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and to God what belonged to God (Matthew 22:21). When arrested for the temple tax, He paid, unlike today’s politicians who will only pay their taxes when they want to seek public office. He also taught His followers to pay the taxes (Matt 17:24-27).

Political Parties
Jesus knew how to live under dictatorship. The following were the indigenous political parties during his time.
Pharisees

This was a religious party that had its foundations in Judaic practices of the time. The role of this party in the Old Testament was not clear. This party may therefore, have originated during the time of conquest by the Roman forces to preserve the religious heritage of the Israelites. It is also possible that this political party originated during the over four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments. The preservation of the religious heritage of the Israelites was critical, and thus, a political party was necessary to do this since the Jews had suffered captivity under various empires such as Persia, Greek and
Babylonian empires. One lesson today’s politicians should learn is that a political party may preserve a Christian or religious identity in name but the members may not be spiritual. This is what every politician should guard against.

Jesus really criticized the Pharisees for this mode of operation. They were only an identity of customs without true spirituality. It is one thing to answer “Christian Democratic Union,” and another to actually practice democracy in a Christian manner. Although the Pharisees were
outwardly religious, they had lost what it took to interact spiritually with heaven. They were, however, able to preserve the orthodoxy of their religion.
The Sadducees
This party seemed to have been formed in opposition to the sect of the Pharisees. It was simply the opposition party. Thus, while the Pharisees were deeply involved in religious strictness, the Sadducees opposed all these. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or in angels or spirits (Acts 23:8). Using today’s terminology, they may simply be referred to as the liberals. Their members were not separated unto religious affairs like the Pharisees. Apart from being liberal, the Sadducees were more overtly materialistic than the Pharisees. Every aspect of materialism of the Pharisees was coated with religion. The Sadducees opposed the Pharisees ideas of resurrection, spirits or angels (Luke 20:27, Acts 23: 6-9).
This does not mean that they were totally irreligious. It seemed that their religious beliefs were much shallower than those of the Pharisees. The Sadducees were also not as popular as the Pharisees for obvious reasons. The Israelites were a very religious people and some of the beliefs of the Sadducees did not portray the entire belief of the Jews. It should, however, be noted that Jesus opposed both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. As far as He was concerned, they were spiritually bereft of what true spirituality should be. The two parties, although opposed to each other, were united against Jesus Christ and His disciples. Any politician that does not practice true Christianity is in opposition to Christ and His ideas of true governance.

Others Parties

The Bible names other groupings such as the Essenes, the Zealots and the Herodians. The Essenes may be ascetics of the Pharisees who were even much stricter than the other Pharisees
themselves. Such asceticism is often necessary to preserve the core identity of any organization. The Zealots (Luke 6: 15) were a resistant party formed against the Roman authorities and were determined to terminate Roman rule in the land. In opposition to them were the Herodians (Mark 3: 6; Matthew 22: 16) who apparently were members of
Herod’s party or fed fat from his administration, and thus, were his supporters. None of these arrangements were supported by Jesus and his disciples.

Christ and His Disciples

Jesus and His Disciples did not denounce the above arrangements as parties because they were political parties. What they actually denounced was the loss of true spirituality once men joined these groups. They attended the same functions with them. They worshipped together with them. However, one thing was clear, they did not argue for the secularization of Israel. Secularization does not produce a people devoid of corruption. In fact, it produces more corrupt politicians than in countries where an opposing religion tends to be threatening the existence of Christianity. Christianity thrives best in opposition. When we have Moslem neighbours as antagonists most of the politicians are more careful with their lives than when Christianity is the only religion. What Jesus met as religious political parties would not
have been there if there were no opposing external forces against Israel. God had told the children of Israel that He had allowed their enemies to survive among them so that each time they forgot Him, the enemies will become thorns for them (Judges 3: 1-4). The enemies would teach them war and make them remember God. People living in a secular society
are too carefree to remember God at a deep level. Even for Jesus, the presence of enemies was a reason for constant prayer and very deep relationship with His Father (Hebrews 5:7). Christian politicians need not be afraid of opposition. Be afraid that you are far away from God.
Opposition will only strengthen you to be a better politician if actually you are God-fearing.

The Apostles After Christ

The apostles after the death of Christ and His resurrection and ascension into heaven exhibited maturity in political behaviour among themselves and under the harsh political leadership of the pagan world. Among themselves, sincerity, justice and fair play was the watchword. No corrupt practice could thrive among them. It was a matter of “do as I
do” and not “do as I say, but not as I do”. Why corruption thrives in our generation is because the leadership at the top is corrupt. Once leadership at the top is devoid of corruption, those below are easy to expose and apprehend because God himself will create avenues for
them to be exposed. When Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, became dishonest (Acts 5:1-11) the resultant effect was immediate death. If Peter and all that were in charge had also been corrupt, that would not have been the case. The Holy Spirit can easily work through any godly
leader to reach the followers.

When the issue of “revenue allocation” or “federal character” arose among the early disciples, they knew what to do. The Greek widows were accusing the Hebrews that they were not being properly taken care of in the daily sharing of food. The disciples searched for seven men who were honest and full of the Holy Spirit. Are those our criteria today? Do we not put ethnic considerations first? I thought that the apostles would have said, “Look out for equal number of Greeks and Jews for this job, so that there will be ethnic balancing.” The idea of ethnic group is lost once the Holy Spirit is involved because “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Why politicians in multi-ethnic societies still see others as different is because they do not carry the Holy Spirit to their various offices.

In Christ there is no Ibo or Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani, black or white. In Christ there is no boundary of tribalism. If our politicians will imbibe this attitude, the much sought after ethnic question will forever be resolved. Unfortunately, those clamouring for the more for ethnic identity are the so-called Christians. They have forgotten that we have no permanent dwelling here on earth. Even the so-called Promised Land was only a symbol of the Heavenly Jerusalem. As a result, Abraham and his immediate descendants lived in tents (Hebrews 11: 9-10). They did not bother to build permanent cities here on earth.

The apostles also lived under very harsh political systems. Their attitude was always, “pray for your leaders” (1Timothy 2:2); “Be submissive to them” (Romans 13:1-8). Our attitude should also be the same, whether in politics or out of it.

Adikwu writes from Abuja and can be reached through 08034378988 or adikwum@yahoo.com

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