THE LAW AND CHRISTIANITY – PART 3

Once again we take up this thread. What does Christianity have to do with running our country?

What were the earlier posts about?

In this post, we will consider the need to reinvigorate Christianity and our instructions from the Bible.

Reinvigorating Christianity In The United States

The Bible serves as the textbook of Christianity; it tells the story of God’s plan for our redemption. To the casual reader, the Bible says relatively little about how we should govern ourselves.  However, because the Bible speaks in great detail about wisdom and morality, the Bible is in fact book about government. That is because the Bible defines a moral code that each of us must honor.

How does it work? Human societies build from individuals organized into families, families organized into communities, and communities organized into nations. Thus, the quality of a society is determined by its building block, the nature of the individuals that make it up. If we can improve the individuals that make up a society, then we will improve that society.

Christian belief changes the individual. The Bible tells us what God has done to save our souls, and the Bible tells what we have to do to accept salvation. The Bible also tells us is that the acceptance of God’s gift of salvation has consequences.

Romans 6:15-18 (Today’s New International Version)

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

The acceptance of salvation does not does not make anyone perfect, but it does change us. Instead of measuring our behavior by the standards of this world, we look to the next.  As Christians, our first allegiance becomes Jesus. So it is when a government official demands our obediance, we ask: What would Jesus do?

Therefore, when we look at the behavior of our neighbors, our children, and our selves, and we find it wanting; we cannot blame government. When we see our government out of control, the men and women who lead us unrestrained in the pursuit of power, we cannot blame them. Instead, we must each regard the failure of our government as possibly a personal failure. Have we each done our part to be Christ’s obedient slave?  Have we each lived and taught by our example the Word of God?

Our Instructions From The Bible

According to the Bible, God has specific commands for us. He twice makes this clear in the Book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 4:2 (New Living Translation)

Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 (New Living Translation)

“So be careful to obey all the commands I give you. You must not add anything to them or subtract anything from them.

Latter, Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they added to the burden of the people with false teachings (See  Matthew 23:13-39 and Luke 11:37-54). Instead of teaching what God had taught, too many of the Pharisees had twisted God’s teachings to elevate themselves.

Like the Pharisees, we too risk unscrupulous legalism or worse. To suit our own preferences we can add to the Bible things it does not say or entirely ignore it.  Thus, we must read the Bible carefully and scrupulously. We must try to understand each book as its author intended. We must put ourselves in the place of the people who first heard its words. In addition, we must consider the Bible as whole, connected work, putting each book in its proper context with the others.

When we  do try understand the Bible, we can be shocked by the results. For example, because of this passage, many teach that Jesus intended Christianity to be apolitical.

Mark 12:13-17 (Today’s New International Version)

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

The key statement is: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” With this statement, Jesus taught that church and state had separate spheres of influence, but by itself the statement is ambiguous. Jesus does not define what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. What does the rest of the Bible say? With his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made a political and well as a religious statement. That is why Caesar’s soldiers beat and crucified Him. Jesus left no doubt that we must consider our obligation to God infinitely greater than our obligation to Caesar.

Consider Jesus’ prayer the evening before His crucifixion.

Mark 14:32-42 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Jesus went to His Father for comfort. While His apostles slept, our Father gave Him the strength He needed. So it must be with us. When confronted with a choice between Caesar and God, Christians must choose to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Therefore, in the years that followed Christ’s resurrection, Christians chose, and Roman soldiers made their choice. It was then that Roman soldiers tortured and killed many Christians.

Nevertheless, many now insist that neither Jesus nor His martyred disciples made a political statement. That defies logic. Are we to suppose believe that the Roman government killed and persecuted Christians for hundreds of years for no reason at all? That would be foolish. We must see the truth. Christianity undermines the authority of those who would make government their god.

So what can we do? Christ left his apostles with The Great Commission, to make disciples for Christ. We must work for the salvation of our countrymen.

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