During this political season it’s important to remember that Jesus did not endorse Caesar when he said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21). Supporting the role of secular government does not mean we endorse the lifestyles of those in authority.
The Jews believed that paying taxes to Caesar was equal to denying the rule of God over Israel. When it comes to politics, there always seems to be something that one group says that if you do that you are denying your faith. To the Jews of Jesus’ day, it was paying taxes. That’s why there were money-changers in the Temple. The priests would not accept offerings with Roman coins. Roman coins had to be changed to Temple currency for a small fee, of course.
Jesus drove out the money-changers. And when he was asked about paying taxes to Caesar, he asked, whose picture was on the coin and they answered Caesar. Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, Jesus said. This was radical because it meant separating the Kingdom of God from the kingdom of Israel.
In their minds, there was no separation of God’s kingdom from Israel. Israel had been a theocracy that combined the two. Many Christians feel that way about America. In their minds, America was a Christian nation that combined nationalism with the Kingdom of God. But Jesus separated His Kingdom from nationalism.
The government of the Kingdom of Jesus comes from another realm, a spiritual sphere. That’s why his servants did not fight when he was delivered to Pilate (John 18:36). The kingdom of God is extended through the Spirit of God.
That is our priority, but it doesn’t mean we have nothing to do with government or politics. To those who say they are too busy with the work of God’s Kingdom to engage in politics, let me remind you that the King of the Kingdom said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
When I look at politics through the eyes of Jesus, I see two spheres, God’s Kingdom and human government. Though I don’t see the Kingdom of God and my nation as the same, I do believe God has a purpose for America. George Washington referred to the “sacred fire of liberty entrusted to the American people.”
I believe God has entrusted liberty to us. Liberty is a gift from heaven and a stewardship on earth. Godly people must engage in secular government to pass the torch of liberty to the next generation.
Dr. Michael Peters is the lead pastor of Christ the King: TheCellChurch.com. He is married to Linda, and they have two children and seven grandchildren. Dr. Peters graduated from Covenant Seminary with an MA and obtained a PhD in historical theology from Saint Louis University. He has written several books. His most recent is titled Cell Vision. It’s about organic discipleship and how to develop supporters into disciple makers. He taught critical thinking and Biblical worldview at Missouri Baptist University. His favorite course textbook was Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. His favorite philosopher is Nietzsche because postmodern people are just catching up with premodern Nietzsche. And his favorite Christian writer is G.K. Chesterton because he understood the difference between a poet and theologian. “The poet,” he wrote, “only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the theologian who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”