Political Hero from The Bible: John the Baptist

In this series we take a look at ‘political heroes’ from the Bible and see what lessons we can take from them into today’s political arena.

At first glance, John the Baptist may appear an odd choice for a political hero from the Bible. He was, by all accounts, nonconformist. His ministry involved living like a wildman in the desert, dressing in camel hair and eating whatever he could lay his hands on. In-between his Bear Grylls lifestyle, John travelled to the edge of the desert to let the rest of the world know they were living sinful lives and needed to repent and seek forgiveness. And he certainly didn’t pull a punch. He targeted Jews and Gentiles alike, the religious order and King Herod Antipas himself calling them all a “generation of vipers” (Luke 3:7).

So what exactly can we learn from John the Baptist, particularly about the way he approached politics?

John didn’t wear a suit

In Bret Dennen’s song Ain’t No Reason there is a lyric that says “You don’t need a reason or a three piece suit to argue the truth”. This could have been the mantra by which John lived. He didn’t have slicked back hair, a sharp navy suit, a flash car to drive around in or Air Force One on demand. Yet he was listened to and his message travelled far and wide.

The reason was that he spoke truth. His message was clear, uncompromising and undiluted. The result was that despite his odd appearance, large numbers were drawn to him and, more importantly, were transformed by his message. The lesson for us is that we should be less convinced by the appearance of those in the public eye than the truth and substance of what they are saying.

John offered practical solutions

John the Baptist wasn’t just a man on the fringes of society who simply bemoaned everyone else for not meeting his standards. When people came to him and asked “What shall we do then?” (Luke 3:10) his answer was like a practical party manifesto, full of policies that when followed would lead to a just and more merciful society. The policies included rich giving clothes and food to the poor; the tax collector making sure he only takes how much he needs; and the soldier not abusing his position of authority and power (Luke 3:10-14).

Christians all too easily take on the task of commentator – highlighting the flaws of the government and the ills of society. However, John teaches us that we need to offer solutions too in order to positively engage with those that are falling short, come alongside them and give practical advice on how to do better.

John was preparing the way for Jesus

The most important aspect of John’s ministry was that he was preparing the way for Jesus.

Things weren’t exactly going his way when he was imprisoned by Herod. He sent a message asking Jesus if he was truly the Messiah, a message that he hoped would be returned by a promise of rescue. Jesus confirmed he was the Messiah but made no promise of a break out plan… Jesus had bigger plans than simply overthrowing earthly authorities.

As Christians engaged in politics, even when it appears our backs are against the wall or things aren’t going our way, we know that Christ has already had victory over earthly things. Our directions are clear: keep the faith and point to Jesus.