Read John 18:36
36 “My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” (THE MESSAGE)
Pilate never quite understood what Jesus was on about. Was he a ruler of people or not? Did he claim authority or not? Jesus tells him he is indeed a ruler with authority, but that his rule and authority are different from that which Pilate exercises.
Some Christians never quite understand the nature of the rule of Jesus. They want to enforce it via civil authorities. They are attracted to leaders who promise to pursue the church’s agenda (at least the bits some Christians think are most important), and thus run the great risk of being captured by those civil authorities.
The church always functions best when it is counter-cultural, when it does what the state cannot do: show grace. When it is not a partisan cheerleader but a respectful critic of the state. When it stubbornly insists that the rule of God is not to be gained through the ballot box but through the powerful Spirit of God.
As Philip Yancey wisely writes: “The government can close down stores on Sunday but can’t compel worship. It can arrest and punish terrorists but can’t cure their hatred or teach them to love. It can pass laws making divorce harder or easier, but it can’t make marriage partners love one another. It can ban adultery but not lust, theft but not covetousness, cheating but not pride. It can encourage virtue but not holiness.”
Governments are very good at some things, but grace is not one of them.