Thursday, July 2, 2015

don't confuse kingdoms

He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”
Luke 20:25

And in this painfully simple reply, Jesus set the standard for how His followers should respond to human government. There are things that are the duties of and to governments... things like taxation, civil obedience, protections of citizens, policing of laws, and overall citizenship. Those are the things that should be rendered to Caesar. And then there are things that belong first to God exclusively: worship, devotion, our sense of purpose, the defining realities of our lives such as personhood, marriage, family, or a fulfillment in this present life and for eternity.

To confuse these responsibilities is to either commit idolatry (making human government a functional god in our hearts) or disobedience (making human government nothing and despising an institution set up by a sovereign God). Either extreme does not follow Jesus' own example. Jesus said these things about the repressive empire of Rome (the government that executed Him and posted a guard at His tomb to ensure no resurrection). It was an empire that brought peace at the cost of oppressing the Jews. He told those under forced occupation to pay taxes to Rome. These are not the words of a political liberator. 

Today I see American Evangelicals confusing government issues (free sppech or second amendment gun goofiness) with legitimate biblical concerns (the redefinition of marriages and families or clear moral distinctions) The messy blend is then wrapped up in conservative red, white, and blue (usually Republican politics) and served up as the gospel culture, often by evangelical leaders who ought to know better! It really ratchets up in political rhetoric during the build up to a presidential election. It confuses the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of Christ.

Christians are not of this world. Get that. We. are. NOT. of. this. world. So when governments redefine biblical standards we stick to God's truth. When governments collect taxes of us (and the rhetoric has already kicked in that since the Supreme Court has made same sex marriage the de facto law of the land, and since Christians WILL defy this, churches should lose tax exempt privileges), we should heed Jesus' words. Imagine that. Imagine if churches actually DID what Jesus said and gave to Washington the taxes that they oppressively may demand in the near future. It just might make us the people He envisioned! Pay the taxes and hold to Jesus' values without compromise.

Remember this: It was Christianity over generations that eventually defeated Roman oppression, not just in Palestine, but in the entire Western world. Christian faith proliferated wildly under government policies that executed leaders of churches, split up Christian families, and burned copies of the Holy Scriptures. Jesus' words will never be stopped by human action. He knew what He was doing (and what He expected of us) when He gave Caesar back his own denarius.

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