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Ceasar, Christ and Contemporary Christianity

Sep 25 2019

I'm so tired of living in such a polarized political climate. There has always been this phenomenon in America, most obviously the Civil War.  There was also  Prohibition, Vietnam, Watergate to name a few.  Still, the current climate seems terribly harsh and unyielding, and both sides of the aisle share the blame, though possibly not equally.  More alarming is that the American church has, by and large, jumped into the fray with both feet.  As much as Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump get under my skin, they are nothing compared to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on the religious right and Al Sharpton and Jim Wallis on the religious left.  When representatives - forget that- when LEADERS of the church let the politicians lead and expect the faithful to follow them, we are all in trouble. 

When asked about paying taxes, Jesus took a coin,asked whose face was on it (Caesar's) and told his disciples "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."  I once heard someone respond to that verse with, "Yeah, but sometimes Caesar asks for too much and needs to be stood up to."  It seemed logical, and even a bit patriotic for about three seconds, but consider Christ's words in context.  Jews were an oppressed minority under a brutal Roman Empire.  Taxes were unjust, extreme, and tax collectors (such as Zacchaeus) often extorted even more from their 'clients'. Furthermore, the monies collected were put to just as many godless political agendas then as now; probably more. Never, even as 13 east coast colonies under King George, were taxes in America close to what the Jews experienced under Caesar.  Yet Jesus said to give to Caesar what was Caesar's.

 I think the principle Jesus was expounding in that passage, however, goes beyond our obligation to pay taxes.  When called for jury duty, for example, Christian's are expected to 'give to Caesar what is Caesar'. In this case, their time.  Scripture also speaks a lot about our responsibility in following the laws of the reigning authorities; but to defy them if the laws are CLEARLY in opposition to God's laws.  And giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, I suspect, also includes the voting process.  And here's where it gets messy.

I think we get so wrapped up  in "Caesar's Empire"that we forget our first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God:  "And give to God what is God's."  This forgetfulness on the part of the brethren leads to their strange compromising loyalty to liars, adulterers and thieves on either side of the aisle.  My Bible seems to say the church  should strive to save unborn babies AND the environment; to protect the innocent AND welcome the immigrant; regulate weapons of violence AND provide better mental health services.  The polarized platforms of political parties have been very effective at convincing believers we need to choose one and not only reject but resent the other. But Jesus says, "Give to God what is God's."  Candidates should be supported to the degree they deserve it, but never do they deserve the unconditional, unaccountable loyalty of those who claim the name of Jesus.  Caesars come and Caesars go, Empires rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God is eternal.

 

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