“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
Have you ever heard the phrase, “The elephant in the room?” According to the Urban Dictionary, it means, “A very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of, but nobody wants to talk about.” There are some topics that people just don’t like to discuss. In the context of church, some of these topics are even more taboo. In fact, Urban Dictionary goes on to say, “Perhaps a sore spot, perhaps politically incorrect, or perhaps a political hot potato is something that no one wants to touch with a ten-foot pole.”
I think most of us would agree that politics has become the elephant in the room. I don’t have to tell you how the last presidential election brought out a lot of heated ideas about how a Christian should or should not vote. Within the Body of Christ there are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents. To even talk about politics and a Christian’s relationship to politics these days is a path froth with danger, because it is almost always a no-win situation.
What is the relation of God and government? What is the relationship between the political and the spiritual? The answer does matter, because Jesus addressed this very topic in one of the most revolutionary statements that ever came from His lips. Only Jesus, in one statement, could define for us how to relate to government, God, and how to keep both in their proper place. What Jesus tells us is something we all should be able to agree on regardless of our political affiliations or opinions.
But first, some background on Jesus’ statement. In Matthew 22:15-17, a group of Pharisees and Herodians came to question Jesus. They asked Him, “Tell us, then, what is Your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” Both of these groups hated Jesus. By asking Him this question, they were attempting to trap Him. They asked Him the most politically inflammatory, controversial question in 1st Century Israel. What they really meant was, “Should people pay taxes and support an idolatrous, pagan government and an emperor who claimed to be God?” In His response, Jesus helps us to answer the question of how we as the people of God can come together on politics. Notice I didn’t say agree on every political issue, but rather come together and not allow our differences to divide us.
Jesus answered in verse 21, “…Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” This was a revolutionary statement because the first half recognized the rights of government, but the second half of this statement restricted the rights of government. We are to respect the government. We are to revere God. Many people – even Christ followers – have gotten that backwards.
Revering God is what is most important. When we revere Him, it will affect our politics. Our reverence for God will influence how we vote, where we stand on different issues, how we speak about these issues, and – perhaps most importantly is these politically charged days – how to treat others whose beliefs and opinions differ from our own. Respect government; but revere God. That is something on which we should all be able to agree.
Application: Which are you most passionate about, politics or Jesus? How much time and energy do you spend talking to other people about each?