Everyone must stand somewhere in order to say anything. And even if what he wants to say is that the previous sentence is not true, he still has to stand somewhere to say it. We can run, but we can’t hide.
If one of the things I want to say (or confess) is that Jesus is Lord, I have to stand somewhere to say that, and that somewhere is determined by my testimony. Where was I on the road when the Lord called me? And where does He want me to be on the road right now?
When I describe some of where I am, there is no intimation that anybody else has any obligation to be at that same place — a Wilson, an American, a male, a blues aficionado and so forth. To accept differences of this sort is to rejoice in a triune God who did not make us all the same. Trying to “fix” the differences of others like this is to fight for a boring world. Celebrate diversity, man.
But there is a difference between honoring the differences that God placed in His world and trying to honor the differences that sin brought in. The former is Trinitarian, and the latter is rebellion.
Now to say that Jesus wants me to be a male is not to say that He wants that for everybody else. He doesn’t want that for approximately half of us. But to say that Jesus led me into conservatism (for example) is to say that it would be better if others did that too. This is not ideological imperialism; rather, it is what it means to think something, at least something of this nature.
“I think I’ll have another helping of potatoes” says absolutely nothing about what other people ought to be thinking. But “I think that two oranges and two more of them make four” is a claim that I believe to be binding on others.
So when I claim, as I recently have, that belief in the lordship of Jesus Christ obligates us to a position that honors the concept of limited government, I really am saying that everybody needs to get good with this. The Bible teaches it. So then, someone will say, “you are claiming that Jesus is a conservative”? Not really — given where He is, at the right hand of the Father, I really don’t know how the label would attach. But I am willing to say that He wants you to be one.
Am I saying that Jesus wants us to be heartless money-grubbing, indiscrimnate carpet-bombing, nationalistic, crony-capitalists? Um, no. Not that. Jesus doesn’t want anybody to be anything evil, and He doesn’t want anybody to be somebody’s evil caricature of anything either. Nobody has to do those.
But He does want us to take personal responsibility, honor the property of others, respect and follow the sexual ethic of Scripture, refrain from taking the blood of innocents, remember the poor with our own funds (as distinct from funds we stole from others), and respect the need for the civil magistrate to stay within his appointed bounds. Now, take those positions and bundle them all together. What do you call that? I call it a recognizable form of conservatism.
That is not secular conservatism, to be sure, but that’s okay. Jesus doesn’t want you to be a secular conservative! That would be bad, and Jesus only wants you to do good things.
N.T. Wright and I agree that “Jesus is Lord, and not Caesar.” But he wants Third Word debts cancelled on that basis, and he once called Margaret Thatcher’s salutary economic reforms “wicked.” I, on the other hand, recently preached that Obamacare was unbiblical, immoral and unconstitutional, and I believe that every form of socialism is institutionalized envy, and needs to be marinated in lighter fluid overnight before we go find our biblical worldview matches.
Now the dictum that “Jesus is Lord, and not Caesar” requires that we go one way or the other, down into the details, and that we do so in His name. The only way to avoid that is to reject the claim that Jesus has something to say about how we govern ourselves. For as soon as you say that He does have opinions on it, then some bright fellow will ask, “Oh? What are they?” And I will say that Jesus wants us to stop spending money we don’t have, and a Christian Keynesian will say the opposite. And somebody is wrong, not only about the economics, but also about what Jesus wants.
The only alternative to this is to say that Jesus doesn’t care what the magistrate does. But if He cares, then His people will be asked how He cares, and how His care cashes out. As a minister of Christ, I don’t have the option of saying nothing.
When differing with Wright on his economics, I do not fault him for speaking to the situation, and I do not fault him for doing so in the name of Christ. I would only fault him for the bad economic reasoning, and we could then engage in profitable debate — and the debate should occur on that level. If I faulted him for even broaching the subject in the name of Jesus, then I would be revealing that my true authority was a species of secular conservatism, considered apart from Christ.
What we may not do — and this is my reason for bringing all this up — is employ unequal weights and measures. We cannot apply different standards to different preachers. If I say that Jesus is Lord, and not Caesar, and everybody applauds, yay, and I continue on and say that this is why we must vigorously defend our Second Amendment rights, and the audience goes cold, and then grows surly, and then somebody says that he doesn’t think it is really appropriate for ministers to “get into politics,” the game is obvious, is it not?