Calvary or Rome?

As a young disciple, I was taught NOT to “be unequally yoked together” with this world. Yes, conditions around the globe were tragic, but what did we expect from a world that was enslaved to sin and under Satan’s boot? What humanity needed was the Good News of the Kingdom of God, not another flawed political philosophy. Since the “forms” of the present age are already “passing away,” why waste time “working for the meat that perishes”?

Pantheon by Daniel Klaffke on Unsplash
[Pantheon by Daniel Klaffke on Unsplash]

Did not Jesus command us to proclaim the Gospel “
to all nations”? To expend our time and efforts on reforming a society already judged on the Cross makes no sense. Far more compelling than the arguments of a great many preachers are the examples of Jesus when he faced the political realities of his day.

Unfortunately, many popular preachers summon believers to engage in political activism as they attempt to use the coercive power of the State to purify the culture, restore society to some mythological pristine state, and otherwise stop wickedness. Never mind that resorting to that solution always results in doing a little evil to accomplish some alleged greater good.

When Satan offered him political power, Jesus rejected it. So, why do we presume to embrace and employ the very thing that he refused? The Devil tempted him by offering him “all the kingdoms of the world.” All he needed to do was to “fall down and swear fealty” to the Tempter - (Matthew 4:8-9, Luke 4:5-7).

In contrast to the Nazarene, many church leaders eagerly adopt the political methods of this age, a system that expects them to accommodate their lives and ministries to this evil age. Satan demanded homage as the price of political power. Acquiring and wielding it requires accepting him as your overlord.

According to Satan, the kingdoms of this age “have been delivered to me and I give them to whomever I will.” Very strikingly, JESUS DID NOT DISPUTE HIS CLAIM! This exchange begins to explain why human governments so often exhibit beastly and even satanic behavior.

Imagine what great good Jesus could do if he sat on Caesar’s throne! Would not righteousness prevail across the Earth if he possessed Rome’s military and economic might? Who better to wield the power of Rome’s legions for the “greater good” than the Prince of Peace?


Instead, Jesus embraced the way of the cross. In God’s kingdom, true victory is achieved through humble obedience and the denial of one’s own “rights.” His domain is characterized by self-sacrificial service and acts of mercy, not force, corruption, and violence.

Satan’s political intrigues did not end with Christ’s initial victory in the wilderness. Following his rebuff, the “Devil departed from him until an opportune time.” Jesus faced the same challenge again after miraculously feeding a multitude. Apparently, certain members of the crowd “were about to seize him, that they might make him king” - (Luke 4:13, John 6:15).

However, rather than accept kingship imposed by the mob, Jesus walked away, an act that turned many minds against him. He refused to become the militaristic messiah that so many expected and desired. The closer he came to Calvary, the more the fickle crowds rejected him and the kind of Kingdom that he proclaimed.

Later, the representative of Rome inquired whether he was “the king of the Jews.” Jesus did not deny his kingship:

  • You say that I am a king. I was born for this … But my kingdom is not FROM (ek) this world. If my kingdom was from this world my own officers would fight that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here” - (John 18:33-36).

He did not claim that his kingdom was strictly “spiritual” or otherworldly. But the source of his sovereignty was something other than the kind of political power so characteristic of this sinful world. The coming “Kingdom of God” was of an entirely different nature, and it had nothing to do with Rome or Caesar.

The Roman governor found no fault in Jesus and was about to release him. However, at the instigation of the Temple authorities, the crowd demanded that Pilate release Barabbas instead, a léstés (Greek) or “brigand,” and a known murderer.

The priestly leaders preferred a violent political revolutionary over the Suffering Servant described in the Book of Isaiah, the same Messiah who “took on the form of a slave” and became “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Thus, also, it remains to this day.

Because of his choice, God exalted and bestowed on him “the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Yes, he achieved sovereignty over the Earth, but not by circumventing Calvary - (Philippians 2:6-11).

Institutional Christianity has a long and sordid history of mixing Church and State, and History is replete with examples of the folly and criminality that result from this poisonous mixture.

Apparently, we do not understand what state power is, how it is exercised, and who, exactly, is the power behind the throne. To advance the Gospel through the political system necessitates resorting to the coercive power of the State, something Jesus NEVER did. Doing so repudiates all that Jesus did and suffered for on the Cross.

The choice is whether to walk the cruciform path trod by Jesus or the smooth highway offered by Satan that ends in Rome, not New Jerusalem. Should we, his disciples, embrace what he rejected?

By its very nature, the political systems of this age are incompatible with the proclamation of “Christ crucified.” Their corruption will only permeate and corrupt the Body of Christ. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

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