Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Voting for a Lost Cause--Government as the Solution

Voting for a Lost Cause--Government as the Solution


"How far are you from the kingdom of God?" This question is based on the claim Jesus made of the scribe questioning him in Mark 12. Jesus states, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Not far appears to indicate, not quite there. That leads me to ask a second question. What are the stumbling blocks that keep this Scribe from the kingdom of God?


Today, I want to look at one of those stumbling blocks--Government as the solution.



In Mark 12: 13-17, we read that some Pharisees and some Herodians approach Jesus. They offer their regards, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth." They then ask Jesus this question, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" In one of the more commonly known answers from scripture, Jesus states--in accordance with the truth--"Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God's."



In his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, C.  Clifton Black writes, "Caesar receives his due, but not more than that. For Caesar and God are neither identical nor inter-changeable."



In the way that the question was shaped, Jesus was offered a limited choice between theocracy or worship of the empire. The choice appears to be clear, a faithful person will choose a nation that has God at the helm. The assumption is that a godly nation will be a prosperous nation. The richness of Israel's story says otherwise. We see the rebellion of Israel in calling for an earthly king similar to the nations around them. As a result, Saul was crowned king leading to a subsequent "civil war" between Saul and David. At times, God's people suffered at the hands of other empires, but at other times, God works through seeming "ungodly" nations and leaders, such as Cyril, even using the term Messiah for them.



No system of government fully embodies the reign of God.  Neither a government nor a governmental leader at all times and in all places speaks for and acts on God's behalf. We can lean toward a pietistic resignation of our situation, or we can lean toward political idolatry. To each of us, Jesus names, in sincerity and truth, our stumbling block. Government is not a replacement for the reign of God. It is the breaking in of the reign of God that transforms the world and impacts the situation of each person.

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