The Egyptian version of the Arab Spring toppled a despot who had ruled that country for three decades. Calls for Freedom, democracy and welfare were the main driving forces of the revolution. Since then the transition of power has been quite a bumpy affair, but seemingly the problems have been overcome by a greater desire to establish public order and democratic institutions. The recent ceasefire between Israel and Gaza seemed to supply proof of the political skills and influence of the first democratically elected President of Egypt, Mr Mohammed Mursi. But last Friday a new wave of protests arose in Egypt, accusing the President of granting himself unrestricted powers and then turning into a new dictator. In some strange way, people wielding power very quickly find themselves infallible. They believe that they serve people, who in return don’t understand them and are undeservedly critical. People of power have a ‘natural’ tendency to gather more and more authority, and to restrict and curb opposition and critics.
We are in a pretty privileged position to live in a country with a well-established political system, with authority dispersed among several centres of power, mutually controlling and restricting themselves. Abuses of power are disclosed sooner or later, and abusers are punished politically and/or legally. So with an element of cautious trust we hand over the task of governing our society to politicians, keeping the power to sack them at the next elections if they fail. Politicians have to work with the masses of the people; that’s the very nature of governing societies. One flaw in this system is that there are always groups of people displeased or disappointed, while others are quite happy. Our desire to be seen as unique characters has to give way to being just a tiny speck in statistics, where individual conditions and stories play a negligible role.
Jesus, asked by the Roman governor about his political position: ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’, gives very clear answer: ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world.’ Jesus doesn’t claim any power or authority that would have to be enforced by military or political force. He doesn’t expect anyone to fight for his kingdom with violent, brutal force. Jesus himself stopped Simon Peter when he started fighting with a sword against those who had come to arrest Jesus in the garden. His kingdom is not a direct, political threat to the existing political system. The influence of the Church should not come from political power. History shows clearly that the more power and influence the Church acquired the more corrupt and deprived it became.
Although Jesus doesn’t claim any political power and hence he isn’t a direct threat to any government, he claims to be a king. Like each king, he claims power and authority over his subjects. Usually kingship comes as a hereditary privilege; we don’t elect our monarchs. In their company Jesus looks odd as an elected king; elected by those who have placed their trust in him; those who have decided to apply his teachings and values to their own lives. In his kingdom we are not tiny specks in statistics, nameless pieces in a huge anonymous crowd. For this one king, each one of us is an individual with his or her unique storyline, conditions and desires. This king has the most individual approach possible to each one of us. And, similarly, the least invasive. Each one of us has the power to sack him from our lives without having to wait until the next election.
The kingdom of Jesus, though politically powerless, can change the world by changing individuals. Jesus’ mission and aim is ‘to bear witness to the truth.’ Pontius Pilate, as a politician, had a problem with defining the truth, as it’s a rather cumbersome and sometimes dangerous element in politics. Jesus speaks about truth on a very personal level; the truth of my life, my desires, my needs, my plans, my motives, and so on. We have some specific inclination to justify our own decisions with good-looking but not necessarily genuine reasons. We cheat ourselves, we appease our own conscience, but at the end of the day we sense that something is not quite right. ‘You will learn the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:32). Christ is the King making you free – when you let him do so.