From the previous post, unpacking something of what Jesus meant by Rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's - what might that look like, sound like? These are not the only or the obvious implications. But they are the thoughts I shared when preaching on the text. (Mark 12.12-17) They were briefer notes, now written up - but the gist is there.
Politics is a Discipleship Issue. Who do you follow? The clues are in the papers you read, news channels we listen to, FB or Twitter accounts, the political party we support, policies we agree with or disagree with. To give God what belongs to God is a quality test of our attitudes and actions in society, personally. Immigration is a complex and controversial subject – but refugees are by definition desperate, vulnerable and at the mercy of the world. There is nothing complex about human desperation and suffering for followers of Jesus who read of the Good Samaritan and go and do likewise; or who read about inasmuch as you did it not you did it not unto me.
“Blessed are the merciful” is not a pious hope, but a political standpoint, a theological disposition. When migrants and refugees are blamed for perceived grievances, or made scapegoats for what’s wrong with our country, as a follower of Jesus I not only beg to differ, I will state that difference in terms that are Christian. For example each person made in God’s image; welcome of the stranger; care for the poor; Jesus in the least of these. I follow Jesus, and render to God what is God's – merciful actions, protective voices, protesting injustice, redemptive gestures of kindness and yes, money no matter whose image is on it! But Jesus text makes nonsense of keeping politics out of church, or ignoring political realities because they are not relevant to "my" spiritual life.
Prayer about Politics is a Discipleship Issue – "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". What is the will of God about refugees, immigrants, people on disability benefits. Or to cast wider, non-payment of corporation tax, start of life and end of life ethics, food banks, green renewable energy? To pray is to lift up hands against the disorder of the world. Giving back to God what is God’s is fundamentally a lifestyle, a settled disposition Godwards, a living sacrifice of worship. When I pray for refugees in the Mediterranean, I pray to the God of the Exodus; for victims of hate crime I pray to the God who is love; against the hate speech, divisive rhetoric of politicians I pray to the God of truth; for the poor, hungry, homeless, and for those struggling with mental ill health and social exclusion I pray to the God of all comfort, the God of peace; for a suffering world where famine threatens millions in Africa I pray to the God of Calvary, and to the God of resurrection. Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence; and my obedience and compassion in praying is part of the world wide web of God's mercy.
Protest and Prayer about Politics is a Discipleship Issue The Barmen Declaration was formulated in the 1930's and published by German Christians opposed to the nazification of the Church. MLK Dream Speech – non violent resistance fuelled by faith in the God of truth, justice and righteousness. The recent spat by the US President against John Lewis, Civil Rights veteran was sad in its own irony! When he tweeted, “All talk, talk, talk, no action. SAD”it blew back on him as protest.
Sometimes Caesar demands what cannot be given. Then we are fcalled to faithfulness, and perhaps with a prive to pay for saying no. That too goes with discipleship. Clarence Jordan founded Koinonia farm, an integrated community of black and white people, poor and marginalised folk. For 14 yrs they faced opposition, resentment, vandalism and finally a fire destroyed the community buildings and crops. The KKK were behind the attack, church members voices were recognised by Jordan. Whe a reporter came to visit, Jordan was in the field hoeing, restoring the soil. Repeated questions about when he would leave, recognising he had failed, giving in, Jordan's reply is now a celebrated moment of rendering unto God what is God's. "In what way can you claim to be successful", the reporter askerd. “About as successful as the cross, sir. I don’t think you understand us at all. What we are about is not success, but faithfulness. Good day, sir. “
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Being a citizen calls for limited liability, limited allegiance, an unwillingness ever to say our country comes first, and is ultimate. God comes first, "Seek you first the Kingdom of God…."Whatever has Caesar’s image is to be given, unless in giving it I am taking from God what is rightfully God’s
Render to God what is God's. What we give to God, the living sacrifice of our lives is he obedience of a heart renewed by grace; the convictions of a Christ shaped conscience; the integrity of minds transformed by the Holy Spirit; the allegiance of life to the Kingdom of God as citizens of heaven. That means politics is a discipleship issue which I think about as a child of the Kingdom. I tmeans prayer about politics is a discipleship issue and I pray the Lord’s Prayer as if I mean it, and mean for it to happen It means Protest and prayer about politics is a discipleship issue when Caesar is asking what he has no right to ask, and in words of early Christians, "We must obey God rather than man…or any human authority.”