5742566_sThe biggest political news in Malaysia for the New Year was the resignation of the health minister. He had been filmed committing adultery and the one-hour sex video had been distributed widely in his home state. He didn’t do a Bill Clinton. He admitted he was the person in the video, apologized to his colleagues and his family, and stepped down from all government and party posts.

Reaction was mixed. He was one of the better health ministers to have come along in a long while. And one can’t help but speculate as to how many of his less competent colleagues had been guilty of worse. But he had sinned, had been caught, and paid the price, proving again that even our best leaders are flawed.

Perhaps we should bear this in mind as we watch the best reality show in the world — the American presidential elections. This is the ultimate Survivor series. Each presidential wannabe presents himself or herself as the hope of the nation. People choose sides. You begin to buy into the hype. (How many had begun to believe that Obama would be the messiah that would lead the nation to salvation and were disappointed that he lost in New Hampshire?)

I am not calling for a cynical avoidance of the democratic process. As Winston Churchill reminded us, the democratic system is bad but the other systems are worse. Malaysia should be headed for the polls soon and I fully intend to vote. Our commitment to the Lordship of Christ over every sphere of life demands that Christians be responsible citizens pursuing kingdom values in the public square.

However I believe Christians should be the ultimate realists, understanding that whoever gets elected will still be a leader with clay feet. Indeed that is one of the points of the Daniel 2 passage. No matter how impressive may be the kingdoms and the kings of this earth, they all have clay feet. Sooner or later, in one way or another, they fail us.

Christian realism also takes into account the source of our ultimate hope. As Daniel prophesied in Daniel 2: 44-45:

During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain. (NLT)

Christmas 2,000 years ago was the soft launch of this Kingdom. Whatever happens in the US presidential election, whatever the outcome of the forthcoming Malaysia general elections, the kingdom and the king that will not fail has already begun operating in history.

This is a subversive kingdom for now, first announced to those outside the power structures of this world, hence the strange choice of shepherds as the first group to be told about the coming of the perfect King (Luke 2:1-20). Shepherds were placed low in the social and economic ladder of Israel when Jesus was born. They were definitely not the movers and shakers of their time.

God chose them to be the first group to hear of the birth of the perfect King because He wanted to send out a signal that it was not going to be business as usual. The “kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered” was going to start slow but end in glory. But the angel was utterly clear. Jesus was the perfect king, the Messiah, the true hope of humankind.

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10a-12 NLT)

As we enter into a new year we would do well to remember that our ultimate hope is in the Lord that came at Christmas and our ultimate loyalty is to His kingship. We would do well to anchor our souls firmly to that kingdom and that king even as we deal with the kingdoms of this world.

And so the Christian’s involvement in politics avoids both naïve hope in earthly rulers, and a cynical avoidance of the political process. Rooted in the king that will never fail we will do what we can in this age even as we await Jesus’ return to establish His perfect kingdom in the age to come.