Commentary
By Guy Nave 3-29-2018

While I don't know if the organizers of the March For Our Lives intentionally planned for the march to take place on Palm Sunday weekend, witnessing hundreds of thousands of people marching to our nation’s capital provided an excellent backdrop for reflecting on Jesus’ march into Jerusalem.

Many people argue that the church is not a place for politics. But Jesus never separated religion and politics. Jesus used religion to challenge politics — to speak truth to power.

Jesus was executed because he dared to do this. His execution — a Roman crucifixion — was a political execution. Crucifixion was a form of execution imposed on those considered to be a political threat to the Roman Empire.

This political agitator and his followers marched into the capital city of Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago demanding change, and demanding the liberation of thousands of poor people suffering under political and religious oppression.

As a follower of Jesus, I am acutely aware of the painful paradox represented by the fact that thousands of self-proclaimed evangelical Christians supported, and continue to support, our nation’s current president. These same evangelical Christians have historically resisted attempts to pass any sort of commonsense gun control legislation (although the tide is shifting).

I am aware that Christians are complicit in the political mess in which we find ourselves.

And because of this Christian complicity, I feel compelled to remind Christians that Palm Sunday, and Holy Week, is fundamentally about a choice — a political and theological choice.

According to Christian tradition, on Palm Sunday, Jesus entered the capital city of Jerusalem on a donkey through the East Gate while the Roman governor rode in on a horse with his soldiers through the West Gate. The action offered two choices to the people, asking, Which will you choose? The kingdom of Rome or the kingdom of God?

Jesus preached the kingdom of God. The confession the earliest followers of Jesus made was, “Jesus is Lord” — meaning Caesar, or any other imperial ruler, is not.

As followers of Jesus, we have to ask ourselves what this confession, “Jesus is Lord,” means today.

Do American Christians choose to follow Jesus entering the East Gate, or do they choose to follow an imperial leader entering the West Gate? Is Jesus Lord, or is Caesar Lord?

What happens when we contrast the teachings of Jesus with the values of our present leaders? Whom will we choose to follow?

As I watched and listened to young people demanding simply that politicians value and protect the lives of young people as much as they protect the right of virtually any American to buy and own military assault weapons, I wondered, Who is Jesus Christ for the countless Christians who reject commonsense gun laws? What are the Christian beliefs that serve as their foundation?

While many evangelical Christians are "thanking Jesus for Donald Trump" and resisting gun control legislation, everyone who claims to be followers of Jesus must ask this Holy Week: What does our loyalty to Christ, as disciples, require at this moment in our history?

This Holy Week, Christians have a choice to make. Do we follow the ways and teachings of Jesus, who proclaimed, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people?” Or do we follow the ways and teachings of our current leaders, who are concerned primarily with the well being of the political and economic elite?

I pray that during this Holy Week, Christians choose Jesus.

Rev. Dr. Guy Nave is professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, focusing on the topics of Christianity, the New Testament, and race. 

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"A Holy Week Choice: The March of Empire or the March of Christ?"
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