So far as we know, the disciples of Jesus never tried to push him as a candidate for the emperorship. He had more important work to do. But the idea of projecting Christ into competition with Caesar is not so far-fetched as it might initially appear. Many Jews of the day were in fact looking for a political saviour, and some wanted to make Jesus king. They understood the messianic concept largely in terms of physical deliverance from Roman bondage. Like many people today, they derived their idea of liberation from the circumstances of their human condition. And make no mistake about it, Jesus had a divine capacity to break those bonds, in or out of office.

Are we to draw from this the lesson that God does not necessarily expect Christians to seek earthly power?

Consider this knottier question: Could circumstances ever be such that evangelicals would do better to try to elect a highly talented person who was known to lie, or to be an adulterer, or even to have cheated or stolen, rather than a devout Christian with very limited gifts?

Christians are still divided over whether they should or should not be involved in political campaigns to begin with. At one pole are those who regard the whole business of politics as intrinsically dirty and therefore to be avoided by persons of principle. At the other pole sit some who think that a fundamentalist in the Oval Office is the ultimate answer to the world’s problems. Biblical evidences are readily adduced for both positions, but of the two extremes, more Christians are gravitating to the latter these days.

One fact that makes the problem more difficult is that we can rarely be certain in this life in saying who is a Christian and who is not (“Not every one who says … ‘Lord, Lord’ …”). ...

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