Would Jesus Ever Be Secretary of State?
In a word, no. Jesus would not serve in any capacity in a governing body. Jesus had an offer of power over all the kingdoms of the world, and He rejected it (Matthew 4:9). Jesus made His attitude about government pretty clear when He stood before Pilate (John 18:36). It seems clear that we are to reject government as in the first place it is a competing worship center that places it in opposition to the 1st. Commandment. I have gone over this is some detail here. Also violence is part of the warp and woof of government, and this places it opposite the 5th, 7th, and 9th and 10th. Commandments. That governments wage war as a part of their essence cannot be gainsaid, nor can Christian opposition to all forms of violence.
So, if Jesus would never serve in such a capacity what is the point of the question? The point is that Jesus does give us advice on how to live out our earthly lives. In fact, Jesus stands as the template for how to live a fully human life. We understand that we can never equal the perfect way He lived out His earthly existence but nonetheless, we strive to emulate Him as best we feebly can. As much as we trust in Jesus as eternal Lord and Savior, we should trust that the lessons He gives us are practical, as well as principled.
Harm Reduction in the Here and Now
We recognize that we exist in a fallen world, as a fallen humanity. We justly got our asses kicked out of Eden and there is now no paradise this side of eternity. We have faith that we will experience that paradise by our trust in God’s good and gracious word and the salvation offered by our faith in Jesus as Risen Lord. Yet, here on earth we are going to struggle, and we will never meet the Jesus standard of perfection. Of course, the Good News is that we do not have to-our faith alone saves us. Yet, in response to these gifts of grace upon grace we seek to do the best we can in all gratitude. So, what is a fallen humanity to do? The first, best thing we can aim for is basic harm reduction. It may be dispiriting to think that the best we can do is get the shit down to shoe level, but there it is. I would argue that if we did this we would make this a markedly better place to inhabit than the current hash we have made of His creation.
So, what teaching can inform us as regards the role of a Secretary of State. I would offer Luke 14: 31-33. This is the passage about a king outnumbered two to one who should go out and negotiate. Jesus is clearly saying that in any given situation there is a time to cut a deal. As a practical matter if you are outnumbered two to one, that would be a really good time to cut a deal. Obviously, for Jesus there is never a time to commit violence, and there is never a time that He justifies such action. Yet, Jesus recognizes the reality of war and the state of the human condition. It is true that Jesus is making a broader point about discipleship and the costs that this entails. Yet, in the process, he offers sound advice-a good negotiating strategy if you will.
The practical point we can draw from this is that there is always a time when it is advisable to cut a deal. There is a time when we should put aside pride and think of the bigger picture. This means thinking about ways to keep the peace and to stop or better yet, avoid the slaughter of innocents. This is all a part of the cost of discipleship. In Verse 33 Jesus says that you cannot become His disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Given the context of the preceding verses, I think he is saying that the need for pride driven power and the achievement of “victory” is a possession that we must lay aside.
Applying This to Our World
There are sadly a host of examples around the globe today that this lesson can be applied to. I will focus only on the current example that is the most dangerous: the proxy war the US is fighting on Russia’s border in Ukraine, an area that they see as crucial to their security as the US would see Mexico or Canada.
There was no moral justification for Russia’s action any more than Jesus claimed justification for 20,000 marching toward the king in His parable. International politics, like all government action is immoral to its core. Remember it is about harm reduction. Harm reduction informs us that morally justified or not nations can and are provoked. Imagine the US response had Mexico been invited into the Warsaw Pact. Or contemplate the Soviet provocation that nearly ended the world in Cuba in 1962. Harm Reduction, Harm Reduction, Harm Reduction.
With this as our framework we can clearly see that on its own Ukraine did not have the resources to defeat Russia. To compare it to the parable, Zelensky was the king outnumbered two to one. They should have… cut a deal.
Ukraine’s fate does not pose anything remotely akin to an existential threat to the US as a nation. This is to set aside the dicey nature of the corrupt regime in Ukraine. Since there were not legitimate US defense needs at stake this should lead to Ukraine… cutting a deal.
Ukraine allowed itself to be used as a pawn in the US imperial drive to weaken Russia. They bought into the nonsense that Russia was attempting to rebuild the USSR and/or conquer western Europe. The uber-nationalists in Ukraine pushed Zelensky to take this position and submit Ukraine, and its innocent civilians to being a US imperial lackey. A rejection of this patently immoral posture would see Ukraine… cut a deal.
In the end, Ukraine (and the US) could have given Russia the one thing it truly needed, a guarantee that it would never be a part of NATO. A pledge of neutrality would have placated Russia’s sense of security, as Mexico’s does the US. Is this a truncation of Ukraine’s sovereignty? Yes, it is a bit. It is the sad, but realistic fate that small nations next to more powerful ones must give up some sovereignty to keep the peace. Is this a fate worse than death? Hardly. Consider the fate of Switzerland. Surrounded by much more powerful nations often at war with one another, it has kept its peace and a large measure of prosperity by giving up a bit of sovereignty and keeping its head down and minding its own business. They set aside their pride and engaged in real harm reduction. Ukraine could have done the same thing…if they took this biblical parable to heart and… cut a deal.
The conclusion to all this is to learn from what Jesus has given us. Have a pre-disposition to peace. Set aside pride, the drive for earthly power that has nothing to do with anything resembling legitimate defense, and cut a deal for peace. None of this is rooted in a utopian ideal that can never be achieved here on earth. It is rooted in a teaching that Jesus gives us that recognizes the fallen state of humanity and gives us a path toward harm reduction and the ceasing of bloodshed and existential risk to humanity.
While Jesus would never actually serve as Secretary of State it is possible that if we carry Him with us into the earthly roles we undertake, that Jesus can serve in such a capacity by being in the hearts of those trying to emulate His example.
Praise Be to God