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“Was Jesus Political?”—John R. W. Stott (1921 - 2011)

John Stott was ordained in 1945 and has served at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London as assistant curate, as Rector, and as Rector Emeritus since 1975. Stott’s broad interests in theology, Christology, evangelism, and apologetics are reflected in his many books.

The misconception that religion and politics do not mix is reinforced by the fact that Jesus was not political while on earth—at least in the common use of the term. Politics is often castigated as something evil and compromising—unworthy of Christian support and teaching. John Stott seeks to clear the confusion and answer the question, “Was Jesus political?”

. . . The words “politics” and “political’ may be given either a broad or a narrow definition. Broadly speaking, “politics” denotes the life of the city (polis) and the responsibilities of the citizen (polites). It is concerned, therefore, with the whole of our life in human society. Politics is the art of living together in a community. According to its narrow definition, however, politics is the science of government. It is concerned with the development and adoption of specific policies with a view to their being enshrined in legislation. It is about gaining power for social change.

Once this distinction is clear, we may ask whether Jesus was involved in politics. In the latter and narrower sense, he clearly was not. He never formed a political party, adopted a political program, or organized a political protest. He took no steps to influence the policies of Caesar, Pilate, or Herod. On the contrary, he renounced a political career. In the other and broader sense of the word, however, his whole ministry was political. For he had himself come into the world in order to share in the life of the human community, and he sent his followers into the world to do the same. Moreover, the Kingdom of God he proclaimed and inaugurated was a radically new and different social organization, whose values and standards challenged those of the old and fallen community. In this way his teaching had “political” implications. It offered an alternative to the status quo. His kingship, moreover, was perceived as a challenge to Caesar’s, and he was therefore accused of sedition.1


John R. W. Stott, Human Rights and Human Wrongs: Major Issues for a New Century (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 27.