If you are stressed out about the 2016 presidential election, take some advice from Jesus (and Bill Murray) … it just doesn’t matter. Rarely, if ever, will I comment on politics. But as I look around and see the growing angst and conflict permeating society on the eve of the election, I wanted to offer a few words of comfort, regardless of your political orientation.
Two millennia ago Jesus was caught in the cross hairs of a geo-political question that the Jews of his time probably thought threatened their very existence. The geo-political power of the day, the Roman Empire, had conquered Jerusalem and imposed its will on the Jewish people, taking control of everything. The imposition of Roman power was everywhere. In the case of the puppet kingdom, Judea, Herod’s rule and Herod’s forces would have been the superficial, nominal political entity. But everyone knew that Rome was the power behind the throne and that Herod was a puppet leader, really. Many Jews resented this and were looking for a politico-military leader, a Messiah, to overthrow the Roman domination system and restore the divine theocracy the Jews longed for. They wanted to make Jerusalem great again (sorry couldn’t resist that).
The Pharisees would be among those religious extremists who were seeking to restore the greatness and glory of an independent Jewish state and who resented the power of Rome. The Herodians, on the other hand, were a party among the Jews who were supporters of the Herodian family as the last hope for retaining for the Jews a fragment of national government, as distinguished from absolute dependence upon Rome. Herod held his dominion by grant of the Roman Empire. Therefore, the Herodians supported Rome and would be in favor of paying tribute to the supreme power. They were part of “the crooked establishment” (sorry, couldn’t resist that one, either).
Even though the Pharisees and the Herodians were politically at odds, they were united in the dislike of the newly-introduced subversive reformer known as Jesus of Nazareth. So they joined forces in an effort to silence him once and for all. The account in Matthew 22 goes as follows:
16 And [the Pharisees] sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
Jesus out-maneuvered this perverted alliance by brilliantly waiving the question and putting it back on them to decide whose “side” God was on. In essence, he rose above the political fray and said “you’re both wrong” and “it just doesn’t matter.” “God is on neither side.” “You’re asking the wrong question.” Jesus realized that the “true” kingdom is not geo-political. It is the kingdom of the human heart. To Jesus, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21.)
To Jesus, elections or revolutions are not the way to seek or find peace. Remember, trying to find worldly solutions to what are, in essence, the spiritual problems of society never works. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.) Our hearts get troubled and afraid when we try to control things (or people) outside ourselves. Our hearts get troubled and afraid when we look out “there” and what’s wrong with everything out “there” as the cause of what’s making us feel bad “in here.” That type of outside-in thinking will never make you very comfortable because you cannot control anything (or anyone) out there. And the more you try to control what’s out there, the more frantic and helpless you will feel “in here.”
What if what is going on inside of you matters more than what’s going on out there? What if you looked in the mirror and decided to change the person you see there instead of looking at your big screen and trying to change what’s going on in the reflection of the world you see there? You can’t change the world. But you can change you.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This is a secret that all of the great spiritual leaders have always known. Politics don’t matter. Personal transformation does. I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote. I’m not saying government is unnecessary. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to elect the very best leaders. But let’s be realistic. At the end of the day, YOU are the problem. YOU are the one that needs to change. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. Gandhi is reputed to have said “be the change you want to see.” Michael Jackson (yes, MJ) sang it beautifully this way:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
The election is scary, but who we are as human beings and how we treat each other matters so much more and, in the end, will determine what kind of world we have. What we need is a revolution of listening, loving and caring more than a political revolution.
So when your man or woman loses the election this year, whatever the case may be, take a cue from Jesus, Gandhi and Bill Murray. “It just doesn’t matter.” YOU matter. And if you want to stop feeling frustrated and powerless, take control of your life, change who you are. Stop blaming “the system” and become the change. Transformed people transform the world.