Monday August 24, 2020
Today’s Scripture: Mark 12:13-17
13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
I love politics. No really, I do. Ever since I was a boy I was hooked on campaigns, conventions, the workings of government, and the political process. I even majored in political science as an undergrad!
I also am a disciple of Christ and feel called by God to serve others in learning what it means for them to be a disciple of Christ.
So how do I reconcile these two parts of me? According to Jesus, I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I ABSOLUTELY believe that our faith should impact our engagement with the political process. Our faith should inform how we vote and what issues we get involved in. It should drive us to seek justice and reconciliation.
But. (And this is a big BUT.) Letting our faith inform our politics is not the same thing as mixing the two together. Jesus is pretty clear that there is a line between politics and faith. How we define that line is important.
In our history, Baptists have typically kept the line at a distance by not engaging in the political process AT ALL. You can find sermons from Baptists past about the evils of politics and how Christians should not get involved and in some cases not even vote! (I’m definitely not advocating that!)
There are others that just blow right past the line and mix religion and politics to the point that it becomes Christian Nationalism. Our friends at the Baptist Joint Committee define Christian Nationalism this way: “Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian.”
The wrestling with this line between faith and politics is the duty of all disciples. We cannot abandon the political process or naively believe that our faith does not impact our politics. But at the same time, we must be careful to not meld the two together. As we enter another crazy political season it is helpful to remember that Jesus set the line for us. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
God we thank you for our country and for the ability to be involved in the political process and have the freedom to worship as we wish. Help us to allow our politics to be informed by our faith. But help us also to recognize and understand the line between the two that Jesus established. As we enter into another election season we pray that you will guide us, give us wisdom, and keep us united in Christ. Amen
The Baptist Joint Committee is spearheading a movement against Christian Nationalism. They have produced a letter that I have signed onto. If you are interested in learning more visit: https://www.christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org/