Sunday, July 05, 2015

WHAT DO WE OWE OUR GOVERNMENT?: SCS No. 53

St. Andrew's Forane Church of Arthunkal, Kerala, India

Sunday, July 5, 2015, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 53

PRAYER for Today:
Father, we know You are able to heal the hearts of a broken nation.  All we ask is that Your will be done and whatever Your will is to give us the strength and wisdom to live Your will till Your Son comes back.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE for Today: Mark 12:13-17 (AKJV)
13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Cæsar’s. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

SERMON for Today:

As we have seen many times in Mark, the leaders are trying to trap Jesus. He does not take their bait, but rather turns their trap on them by asking for a coin and pointing out whose image is on it.  His response in verse seventeen has been used to support every possible philosophy one can think of or imagine in a dream.  He knew what He meant, but do we know what He meant?

Jesus is not establishing a political kingdom in opposition to Caesar, so it stands to reason that His followers should pay taxes and obey civil laws. There are matters that belong to the realm of civil government, and there are other matters that belong to God’s realm. Jesus does not here specify which matters belong in which realm.  However, in His other teachings He has made clear that all we have and all we are belong to God.  Jesus did not have a problem figuring out what belonged to God.  He knew everything did.  He said give Caesar his coin because money was not the foundation of a relationship with the Father.

However, many Christian ethicists today make it a very complicated issue. They teach that, in general, civil government should allow freedom in matters of religious doctrine, worship, and beliefs about God, and the church should not attempt to use the power of government to enforce allegiance to any specific religious viewpoint. All forms of the Christian church throughout the world today support some kind of separation between matters of church and matters of state. By contrast, totalitarian governments usually try to suppress the church and subsume everything under the realm of the state. And some extreme Islamic movements have tried to abolish independent civil government and subsume everything under the control of Islamic religious leaders. Historically, when the church and state have become too closely aligned, the result most often has been the compromise of the church.

This sounds right and it is mostly right, but one cannot totally separate their faith from their government.  One takes their faith into the voting booth and into the public square.  It is correct to say the church should not control the government nor the government control the church.  It is not correct to say that Christians should be silent in the public discourse on issues of governing.  People want to silence the church in the name of separation of church and state, but the fact is that only has to do with control.  It does not have to do with speech.

As this country celebrates its birth, we should all hope the voice of Christians all across this nation gets louder and the love, acceptance, redemption and restoration of all people that Jesus represented and practiced while on earth becomes the working principles of our nation.  What do we owe our government?  We owe our government our Christian voices and examples of works that model Jesus.  

© Ed Cooper, July 5, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s.)

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