New Year. Same Person. Details change. But the themes are the same.
It’s simple really, the details change but the themes are the same. As we welcome (or anti-welcome) the beginning of a new federal administration in American politics we have to ask ourselves what is the role of Christianity in the public life. Donald Trump is a new face, a new ideology, and represented a marked change from the Obama era. Yet, things are not really that different.
2,000 years ago, Jesus was asked what to do in regards to taxes. His answer, as was often the case, was both simple and profound, easy to implement but had far-reaching ramifications:
“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:15-22
Give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Simple concept, profound and far-reaching implications. Join this together with Jesus’ testimony to Pontius Pilate that “My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My Kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36, ESV).
God’s is God’s. Caesar’s is Caesar’s. The Kingdom of Heaven is not of this world. These concepts are simple to describe, as it is, but what are the implications of where they lead us?
The theme’s are the same even though leaders change. Early Christians (and Jesus HIMSELF!) protested corrupt government, yet they were not obsessed with government of this world. They understood that their purpose was to give their due to God. To give what had God’s image to God; the same as they paid taxes with the coins that bear the image of Caesar so they lived a life that paid gratitude to the one whose image they beared--God’s.In a few weeks, I am going to expand on and talk about this topic. If you journey with me, we will consider how though the details of life change, the themes are the same. Our mission as Christians transcends the beginning (or end!) of any federal administration.