Christ or Caesar?
God has given us His word, not so much to tell how we should live, but to show us what His character is. Christianity should give us a fullness of life in which the whole person conforms to the will and character of God.
Once we have stepped from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, we realize that it is God’s law that gives us our standard. Our standard is no longer found in worldly principles or even churchly legalisms. The biblical teaching of morality is to be our only standard. We are to fly no other flag than the flag of the kingdom of heaven. We are to minister to Christ where He most suffers in society. This includes not only ministering to the poor and needy but also to a church that has become increasingly corrupted by the prevailing social and political systems.
Government will be quick to point out to pastors and others who minister in Christ’s name that they must keep themselves out of “politics” and confine themselves to their “proper” task of preaching the Gospel. This raises the question: What is the Gospel? Surely it is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. But it is more than that. It is the proclamation of the kingdom of Christ and His lordship. Salvation is for the whole person. It is meant for his whole human existence. It is not meant for his “soul” only. It affects, in addition to the spiritual sphere, the political, social, and economic spheres also.
Reformed Christians throughout the centuries have always professed with conviction that the lordship of Christ applies to all walks of life. The Lord Jesus Himself rules over all spheres of life, and the church and the Christian must look to Him for His sovereignty and respect in all these places. Thus, when the Word of God demands it, the church must fulfill its prophetic function with regard to the state in spite of popular opinion.
It surprises me that some Christians should think this prophetic function of the church is un-patriotic. It is my conviction that, for a Christian, obedience to the state or to any human authority is always linked to obedience to God. That is, obedience to human institutions is always relative. Human institutions can never have the same authority as God, and human law must always be subordinate to the revealed Word of God.
Any government, therefore, that expects blind, unconditional obedience is a tyrannical government. The believer in Jesus Christ has not only the right, but also the duty, to be more obedient to God and His law than to the government, should this government deviate from God’s law.
That the Word of God is no longer the uncompromising standard is readily apparent today. Note this statement from the Falwell Confidential of August 27, 2004:
Most religious conservatives
would agree with me that, as long as the Republican leadership remains
chiefly pro-family, pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, we will
continue to favor the party. At this time, the Republican platform, while
not perfect, reflects respect for unborn life and traditional marriage -
key issues for evangelicals.
Mr. Falwell says that we must never compromise, yet compromise is exactly what he is calling for. Politics is not a “game,” and one cannot be “chiefly” pro-life – one either is or isn’t. Over the past three years many Christians have reluctantly yet rightfully condemned Mr. Bush’s policies as sinful and wrong. They are sinful because they conflict with the Word of God. They are wrong because they are unjust. And they utterly fail to expose and rebuke the idolized nature of the state.
Rather than compromising with those who held to “conflicting viewpoints,” Daniel refused to obey the king’s law when he refused to bow down before the graven image of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 3:17-18). He regarded the king’s law as being incompatible with God’s.
Today the answer of Daniel and of the apostles and of God’s faithful remnant throughout the ages still resounds like a bell in the church of Jesus Christ: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
As for me and my house, we will serve Christ, not Caesar, whatever the cost.
August 28, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.