Was Jesus a "Liberal"?

January 04, 2019 0 Comments

Jesus did not identify Himself with any of the political, social, or religious movements of His day. As far as we can tell from the Gospel narratives, He refused to be labeled as:

• A Pharisee. A Pharisee was a super conservative, legalistic, judgmental religious leader among the Jews. As a matter of fact, Jesus was constantly contending with these Pharisees and rebuked them for their hypocrisy.

• A Sadducee. A Sadducee was a member of the elitist class, a more “liberal” Jew than a Pharisee. For example, a Sadducee did not believe in supernatural phenomena such as the existence of angels, and the reality of the resurrection.

• A Herodian. A Herodian was a Jew who thought the best way to deal with the oppressive Roman government was by compromise and cooperation. He was part of a political party that supported the Roman-backed Herodian dynasty.

• A Zealot. A Zealot was a Jew who believed in outright revolt against the Romans, ready to take up arms, and was therefore at the opposite end of the political spectrum from the Herodians.

In other words, Jesus steered clear of politics. He knew His mission was spiritual in nature, not political. That’s why He told Pilate at His trial: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).

Surely this was a great disappointment to all those oppressed Jews who were looking for a political deliverer from Rome, not a spiritual Savior from sin! If Jesus was here on earth today, I believe He would, in similar fashion, refuse to become identified with any particular political party. I don’t think He would have kind words for either the Democrats or the Republicans. That’s because the problems we face in our current culture are not political, or socio-economic, or matters of social justice. Our root problems are spiritual. The heart of the problem is the human heart, which the Bible says is corrupted with sin of all kinds. Jesus alone can save people from their sins and their sufferings, not the government, and certainly not some political party that happens to be in control of the government.

I must confess however, that I get very upset when I hear people say that “Jesus was a liberal”—that He held to the same kinds of views that liberals espouse today. Not that I am trying to pin the conservative label on Him either—but the attempt to define Jesus along the lines of religious and social liberalism, as we know it today, is a gross misconception and mis-characterization of the person of the Christ. People can either believe in Jesus or not believe in Jesus, but the one thing they can’t do is change Jesus into someone He was not. You can’t mold God into an image that suits your personal opinions. Jesus is who He says He is—who the Bible reveals Him to be. It is this refashioning, this redefining of the historical Jesus into a “new Jesus” that I strongly object to. It is my contention that the liberals of our culture today are doing just that—remaking Jesus into a figure that fits in with their preconceived liberal views and who is accepting of their sinful lifestyles.

Throughout the next ten weeks, I will be sharing ten different "issues" that are being hotly debated in our current political culture, and showing how the Jesus of the New Testament could never be classified as a “liberal”. For those who are willing to accept what the Scriptures say about Jesus Christ, this pursuit of the truth will prove to be a noble, enlightening, and worthwhile quest.

Richard Seefried
Harrisonburg, VA
Richard Seefried has a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry, and is licensed & certified by the NCCA as a clinical pastoral counselor.