Jesus means a lot of things to a lot of people.
To some of us, He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the promised Messiah and Savior of mankind, the Son of God, the Great High Priest, the Great Physician, the Good Shepherd, and the Lamb of God, just to name a few.
However, we all probably know folks who would only cherry pick a small number of those appellations, with Jesus neatly tailored to suit their personal tastes. Maybe we even know some folks who would find fault with them all, thinking Jesus was just one venerable sage among many, while others, still, might only believe He was a mythical man whose fabled story is only as useful or as helpful as it can be wielded as a weapon against assured Christians.
Even some of the more discerning amongst us still suffer from a markedly distorted understanding of who Jesus is, what His Kingdom looks like, and what His Gospel accomplishes. We wrench scraps of Scripture from their original historical and grammatical context and often interpret the absence of Scriptural testimony as Jesus’s tacit approval of whatever ideological position of ours currently rests on the hot seat.
One such distortion that is often peddled among theological and political liberals is that Jesus is a liberal progressive. More specifically, in recent years, He has been been recast as a feminist, as a Wall Street “occupier,” and, of course, as a socialist, which is where I'd like to camp out today.
Liberals like to imagine that if Jesus were here today, He’d support raising the minimum wage, clamor for socialized medicine, crow for subsidized housing, and, of course, march in solidarity with the labor unions, because, you know, Jesus loved the poor (Luke 6:20) and disenfranchised (Matt. 9:10), was leery of the exploitative schemes of the rich (Matt. 6:24, 19:24), and obviously had a distaste toward materialism that culminated in a plan for wealth redistribution (Matt. 19:21). From that vantage point, Jesus definitely does look like a socialist.
But before we venture any further, we should probably define what socialism is, given that it's a term being blithely tossed around the political landscape these days.
Socialism, according to the late economist Murray Rothbard, “occurs when the State owns all the means of production. It is the compulsory abolition and prohibition of private enterprise, and the monopolization of the entire productive sphere by the State.”
But this is describing communism, some might retort, and very few are arguing for the benefits of communism. However, there’s no substantive, principled difference between socialism and communism. In fact, socialism, to Marx, was but a necessary stepping stone leading to pure communism.
Rothbard continues by noting that one doesn't have to be a full-fledged communist to be tainted with the stain of socialism. He writes, “Any increase in governmental ownership or control…is ‘socialistic,’ or ‘collectivistic,’ because it is a coercive intervention bringing the economy one step closer to complete socialism.”
It’s obvious to socialists that the government, or as Rothbard dubs it, the State, is the institution that is best equipped to do the heavy lifting to ensure a level playing field where no one is left behind. Therefore, because such lofty collectivist aims are allegedly precious in Jesus’s sight and only the State can accomplish as much, then Jesus must love the State and the socialism that it implements and promotes, but only when it’s done right, of course.
Nevertheless, there’s a kernel of truth in some of these liberal claims.
Jesus does, indeed, love the poor, oppose those who worship money, and wants us to be charitable toward our neighbor in need, but, oftentimes, the distance between fact and fiction, between truth and error, is differentiated by the subtlest of nuances and the minutest of qualifications. In time, Lord willing, I hope to separate fact from fiction and differentiate our Lord from His imposter, the collectivistic doppelgänger for which He's long been mistaken.
Even with all of the doctrinal rigor that exists in the Christian community, there still remains a yawning chasm where such rigor rarely dares to tread. Many Christians might even share my disgust in seeing Christ allied with Marxism, but when it comes to deciding which political candidates are qualified and which laws, political platforms, military interventions, and monetary policies are truly righteous and just, they often betray their theology and begin to walk and quack like socialists.
Otherwise faithful Christians, who believe Christ to be Lord of all and seated upon a throne of justice and righteousness (Ps. 89:14), routinely set aside King Jesus’s marching orders for justice and righteousness, the weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23), thinking “natural revelation” to be a better standard for governing the nations than the “special revelation” found in Scripture.
For some reason, leaving justice and righteousness to be determined by a collective of wretches whose hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9) makes better sense than allowing them to be determined in accordance with God and His Law, which is “perfect,” “righteous altogether,” and “enduring forever” (Ps. 19:7-11). This collective voice of the people, if not echoing the voice of God, is just a tyranny of the majority. “You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice…” (Ex. 23:2).
Therefore, we should be more concerned by our humanism than by the petty arguments lobbed by opportunistic unbelievers.
Furthermore, if we reject the Law, then the New Testament with its rich vocabulary loses its ethical skeleton and becomes little more than a limp pile of malleable, disjointed ideas. The avenues of Biblical interpretation for the Christian then become broader, more comfortable, and more subjective and, thus, more beguiling and destructive, as well (Prov. 14:12).
If we reject the Law, then the NT with its rich vocabulary loses its ethical skeleton.—@attentivesons
Many of us orthodox folks end up with the same kind of blood on our hands, ironically enough, as the theological liberals, because we, too, dissect God’s Word and extricate it from its true context and reimagine it according to our preferences.
Therefore, pragmatism often reigns supreme in matters of law and government, with many Christians believing that supporting a lesser evil is wise and discerning. Is it, really? Isn't supporting a lesser evil still supporting evil? If we support a lesser evil, aren't we putting God to the test and calling evil good or, at least, good enough to earn our vote and financial support (Isa. 5:20)?
We must forsake this unwarranted diminution of Scripture, of Jesus, His Kingdom, and His Gospel, and, instead, return to the notions that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for…training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17), that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), that God does not lie (Titus 1:2), and that Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30) in character and nature and always have been, too. We must search all of Scripture to “move on to maturity,” as we are told in Hebrews 6:1, and we can’t do that if we remain immature across wide swaths of thought, perpetuating the blind spots that prevent us from taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We must remember that the spiritual man is nothing more than the man who has gone on to maturity, judging all things–including legal systems, political candidates, and economic policies–according to every shred and every scrap of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:12-15).