Over the past few weeks, we at The Warehouse have been reading the book of Luke through the lens of the upcoming elections, trying to get a feel for how Jesus would vote if he were in our positions today. While neither the ANC, DA or EFF make appearances in the New Testament, the stories about Jesus’ life held within give us some good ideas about his values, ideals and priorities. He may not have voted in an election, but as we all do, he voted with his life. His words, engagements, actions and interactions all give us glimpses of the kind of world that he wanted for creation. From the window into Jesus’ life that we are shown from the book of Luke, I have pulled out ten things I believe Jesus ‘voted for’ in his life on earth that I hope will offer some ways around which we can shape our own voting, both in the upcoming elections and beyond.
- Jesus voted for the full participation of children in society
Children are often unthinkingly marginalised within society. It is often felt that only people over a certain age are qualified to make decisions or give input into the direction that society should take. Jesus’ life teaches instead that we have much to learn from children. In Luke 2: 46-47 we see a twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem engaging with, asking thoughtful questions of, and adding insight to the teachers that were there. Later on in Luke 18, Jesus confronts the disciples for excluding children, going as far as to say that the kingdom of God cannot be received unless in the posture of a child.
- Jesus voted for the centring of those on the margins
I think this was a constant theme for Jesus’ life. In many ways a marginalised person himself, he constantly acted to bring those pushed aside, into the centre, generally in full view of those occupying that centre. In Luke 4: 25-27 Jesus tells of how Elijah and Elisha gave prominence to marginalised foreigners in their ministries. Similarly, in Luke 5: 27-32 Jesus publicly shares a feast with ‘tax collectors and sinners’- those society saw as outcasts. The story about the bleeding woman tells of how Jesus stopped and focused the attention of a whole crowd (which included some very ‘important’ people) onto a woman who likely would have otherwise been invisible to them.
- Jesus voted for our wholeness
In Luke, as in most of the other gospels, we see Jesus healing people’s bodies left, right and centre. What I have come to love about these stories is that they rarely begin and end with the healing of bodies. People left these encounters changed, mind, body and soul. Jesus did not compartmentalise people. A sick person was not merely their sickness, but a whole human being. To the paralysed man lowered by his friend through the roof (Luke 5:20) Jesus said, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’. To the bleeding woman whose body was healed with just a touch (Luke 8: 40-49), Jesus did not end the encounter there, but made space for her to be seen and to tell her story and enter into peace and wholeness. For the man set free of demons (Luke 8: 26-39), this liberation was not the end of his healing process for Jesus sent him back into his community to reintegrate with the people he had been ostracised from.
- Jesus voted for people over laws/religion/social norms
In society then and now, we tend to put many things above people. With his life, Jesus reiterated over and over again that people were the priority, every time. Defying the laws that defined people as clean or unclean, Jesus touched lepers (Luke 5:13) and bleeding women (Luke 8:44). Defying the religious requirements of the Sabbath, Jesus picked and ate grain with his friends (Luke 6: 1-5), and healed a man with a withered hand (Luke 6: 6-11). Defying social norms and expectations, Jesus not only allows a ‘sinful’ woman to wash his feet and anoint them with perfume, but acknowledges and praises her publicly for doing so (Luke 7:36-40)- to the infuriation of the religious leaders present.
- Jesus voted for the rearrangement of hierarchy and power lines
Jesus’ life and actions constantly reorganised power. He publicly rebuked societal leaders for the ways in which they behaved and treated others (Luke 11: 42-54). He made Jairus- a powerful synagogue ruler- wait for him to attend to the needs of an unclean, marginalised woman (Luke 8:40) before attending to his daughter. In an argument among the disciples about who was the greatest among them, Jesus brought a child to the centre of this engagement, saying that ‘he who is least among you all is the one who is great’ (Luke 9:46-48).
- Jesus voted for love that looks like something
Jesus’ life voted for a love that was not simply a law to be memorised and followed, but radical action to be lived, breathed and embodied. In his parable of the good Samaritan, he shows that this love involves a subject that is in need, and a subject willing to take up the call of neighbour and show tangible love to the other (Luke 10:25).
- Jesus voted for a redefinition of success that is not linked to material resource
While society saw (and sees) the storing up of wealth as the ideal of success, Jesus challenged this, and spoke about a different kind of wealth that cannot be destroyed. In Luke 12: 33 he even went so far as to challenge his listeners to sell their possessions and give them to the needy.
- Jesus voted for restitution
Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus resulted in this wealthy tax collector, whose riches had come from the exploitation of oppressed subjects of the Roman Empire, giving half of his goods to the poor, and practicing fourfold restitution with anyone that he had defrauded. Jesus terms this ‘salvation’ and counts it central to his mandate of seeking and saving the lost.
- Jesus voted for time spent hanging out with people
I like this about Jesus a lot and I think this characteristic is especially relevant and significant in the fast-paced society that we occupy today. Jesus spent time hanging out with people. Today we often conflate the busy-ness which means that we are unable to see people, with importance or significance, but Jesus made sure his schedule was empty enough to allow for deep encounters with people. In Luke 5:29 Jesus accepted Levi’s invitation to eat at his house, and spent time hanging out and eating with him and his friends. In Luke 10: 38 Jesus affirms Mary in her decision to abandon the busy-ness and just hang out with him. Again, Jesus’ priorities always centred around people.
- Jesus voted for rest and retreat
Again important in our fast-paced world is Jesus’ commitment to retreat. He was aware that in his constant giving out of himself, he needed to be poured back into. In line with this, we see many instances where Jesus withdrew from the crowds to pray or to be alone with God (Luke 6: 12). I think that the way that society is structured has created a gaping need for such times of rest, allowing us to come back into alignment with ourselves, creation and creator.
In this time of heightened politicking and once-in-every-five-years elections that can feel pretty high stakes, I think it is good to remember that yes, we may vote in these elections, but we also vote every day with our lives. Our every action or inaction is an ‘x’ on the ballot of the elections for the kind of society that we want to live in. May we take our cue from Jesus and write our x’s with intention that they may lead to a society characterised by ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.