By Elias Munshya wa Munshya
The Holy Week is a powerful moment in the life of the Christian church. Each year this week becomes a reminder of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Beginning on Palm Sunday, the Church all over the world reenacts the pain of Jesus’ Holy Passion leading up to his death on Friday and his subsequent resurrection on Easter Sunday. Indeed Easter is a powerful event that we should use to commemorate and remind ourselves of the supreme sacrifice of our Lord who died for our sins.
There are many things that the Lord Jesus said and did during the Holy Week. It is during this Holy Week that he cursed the fig tree; taught about the ten virgins; taught about the ten talents; and that he commended the poor widow. It was also during the Holy Week that he spoke about the signs of the End of the Age and his Second Coming. Additionally, it was still during the Holy Week that he taught the disciples about the Holy Spirit that he was going to send to them after he has gone back to the Father. Love as a symbol of the believers’ unity was also taught during this Holy Week. He told his disciples to love one another, since it is only through their love for one another that the world would know that they are Christians. That message of love still rings true for the world and the Church today. It was on Holy Thursday that he, taking the usual ceremonial symbolisms of the Passover Meal, instituted the Lord’s Supper—the Eucharist.
On Good Friday, Jesus having been arrested earlier was now facing a criminal trial. The first trial was held by the High Priests—Annas and Caiaphas. After that trial with the High Priests Jesus was then taken to Pontius Pilate the Governor of the Roman Province of Palestine at that time. As a Roman Governor, all judicial power lay with Pilate, and the case of Christ (which had to do with a death sentence) could only be presided over by him. It is to Pilate that Jesus said one of the most profound statements about the relationship between Christianity and politics. When Pilate asked him whether he was a King, Jesus replies, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 8:36). I wish to critically evaluate this statement in the context of current Church-State relationship in Zambia which has ironically declared itself to be a Christian Nation.
First, Jesus clearly recognizes the reality of at least two kingdoms. The first kingdom is the kingdom of this world, while the second one is the one he says to be “from another place.” From his answer we could infer that while Pilate’s question was about whether Jesus was a king of the Jews—a kingdom of this world—Jesus was quick to mention that yes he was a king, but not a king of this world.
Secondly, Jesus shows the difference between these two kingdoms. The kingdom of the world is preserved and created by fights and war. But the kingdom “from another place” does not operate like that. Its way is not a way of violence. Indeed if Jesus’ kingdom had been of the world, his supporters from all over Jerusalem, and Galilee, and Samaria could have fought for him. They could have mobilized their spears and swords and all those weapons. But he being a radically different king did not need to have his supporters to fight since his kingdom was radically different.
Thirdly, Jesus’ statement seems to be more descriptive than it is disparaging. As such, he is not saying that the kingdom of the world is fundamentally evil or bad. He is simply mentioning that the kingdom of this world is not the only kingdom there is. Consequently, he is equally not forbidding people’s or believers’ participation in politics, but rather pointing our clearly that our participation in politics is done with an awareness of the existence of another kingdom “from another place.”
What then does all this mean to Zambia a Christian nation? It means that the Church should clearly distinguish between the Kingdom of God, and national politics. This is not to mean that the church leaders or indeed Christians should not participate in politics, but rather that Zambian Christians’ participation in politics should be predicated by the reality of the kingdom from “another place.” Therefore, Christians do not participate in politics the way the world does. But rather they participate in politics with an awareness of faithfulness to God’s Kingdom that should make Christians serve people better. To the Zambian Christian, therefore, they do not need to use violence for personal political ends—that is what the world does. The Christian in Zambia should use kingdom strategies for political participation. If the church participated in national politics without recourse to Jesus’ “other kingdom”, she may lose her prophetic edge in leading people to Jesus Christ—which is the primary goal and raison d’etre of the Church.