the Jesus Campaign

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : January 29, 2008

campaign.jpgJohn 1:34 informs us that Jesus is God’s elect. Election. It is a word that means different things among different people. Calvinists love the word (if you’ve experienced “election” it means that you’re in; it is the un-elect that go to hell). But these days, the word “election” makes Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney or John McCain flash into our minds.

Underneath it all, “election” is about choice. We think of it as the people of a nation deciding together who will lead them. In the days before the so-called Enlightenment, the word “election”also referrd to the choosing of leaders. Leaders in those days were chosen by God, not by people. In those days, election was almost always about God’s choice: choice of kings and the choice of who was “in.”

John tells us that God chose Jesus to lead his people. He is our elected leader.  He is the elected King of God’s Kingdom.  And like all God’s chosen kings, he was anointed (by John’s Baptism), but unlike previous Kings, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Unlike modern-day elections, Jesus went campaigning after he was elected.  He went out among the people calling for change. For repentence.  The question wasn’t whether or not he would be the King. The question was: “who was going to be in the Kingdom?”

Jesus’ call to repentance has more in common with Barack Obama’s call for change than it does with evangelical altar calls.  Jesus’ message is political: I’m bringing in a new regime. If you want to be a part of my administration, then you have to leave the old one. And so when Jesus went around calling people to repentance, it was like he was campaigning for change.  For a new administration—the administration of God.

Jesus begins his campaign in the margins, on the fringes of political and religious power:

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Repentance requires a training in a new way of life. This new way of life is called “discipleship.” It isn’t a simple choice, but a life one embraces. It is a complete shift to a new way of life. What we read in the gospels is Jesus’ training of his disciples into a new way: the Kingdom of God.  These 12 helped with the campaign.  They passed it on to others, who passed it onto others and now we are responsible for campaigning.

Jesus has been elected. And when we live in his new administration, we embrace a new way of life that comes into conflict with the old. As we embrace this new way, and experience the life-giving presence of the Spirit, we can go demonstrate and proclaim this new life. That is how we campaign for Jesus.

Btw: I haven’t read it yet, but the new Shane Claiborne book looks like it will be heading into this territory. Check it out here.

for further reading . . .

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3 Responses to “the Jesus Campaign”

  1. mountainguy on January 29th, 2008 5:46 pm

    NIce article.


  2. joe troyer on January 29th, 2008 6:37 pm

    nice. i already have shane’s book pre-ordered. come’sout in march ithink.

  3. Amalia on January 31st, 2008 5:38 pm

    Thanks for your words-may Christ Reign as Our King!

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