Message: Part 1: Should Christians Care About Politics?
Scripture Text: Matthew 22:15-22
1. We’ll be spending the next few weeks leading up to Election Day (and one week after) talking about how faith and politics intersect.
a. We’ll be asking some specific questions from a Christian perspective:
i. Should we care about what happens in politics? How much?
ii. Should we keep faith out of politics?
iii. Should we worry about the outcome of the election?
iv. Should we pray for our country and leaders?
v. Is the world coming to an end?
b. I can go ahead and give you the answer to every question right now. It’s YES. And NO. (You didn’t think I was going to give it away the first Sunday
2. We can probably all answer YES to the question “Do things seem especially ugly with this Presidential election?”
a. Clinton’s affiliation is Methodist, and Trump’s affiliation is Presbyterian, so without being too judgmental I would say they both need a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting for some things they’ve said and done.
b. But ugliness in politics is nothing new.
i. Remember ‘Et tu Brute?’
ii. This video could have been a TV ad for the 1800 Presidential election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
1. Election of 1800 Attack Ads (YouTube)
c. I’ve discovered that coming at this
election, and the state of politics in general, from a place of faith is really helpful and hopeful no matter how ugly things get.
i. The Bible provides specific scriptures to guide and encourage us – and I think they can do so whether we are Christian or not but should be especially relevant if we seek
to follow Christ and be his disciples in the world.
d. Now I’m going to have a ground rule for this series:
i. I will speak about WHY and HOW Christians intersect faith with politics and not WHAT or WHO to vote for.
ii. As a pastor of a wonderfully diverse church with both Republicans and Democrats in the pews I don’t want my personal views (awesome as they are) to be a distraction.
iii. Let’s focus on what we can share and do together in the midst of political differences.
3. Let’s start with something Jesus said.
a. Read Matthew 22:15-22
i. The Pharisees were a Jewish political party who taught that the Roman government was greedy, over-reaching, immoral, and a threat to the Jewish way of life.
ii. The Herodians were a Jewish political party which thought the Roman government was awesome. Taxes went to roads, viaducts, and peacekeeping and made life better for everyone.
b. They came to see which side Jesus would take. He answered with “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
i. German Biblical Scholar Ernst Lohmeyer said this answer is “as clear and convincing as it is unfathomable and deep.”
4. It gives you some options to choose from.
a. At face value it might mean you’re off the hook. The government can put its stamp on a coin but God puts His stamp on the world, including the government and the coin.
i. So allegiance to God replaces allegiance to a government and any obligation it imposes.
ii. Option 1 is you don’t owe the government anything– and you can just tell that to the IRS.
b. The problem is that Jesus uses a specific word.
i. The Jews asked him if they had to ‘pay.’ The word implies they have a choice – like when you decide whether to tip or make a donation.
ii. Jesus changes the word to ‘pay back.’ That’s the word for Debt. He’s reminding you that God commands you to pay your debts – and you have a debt
to your government for how it protects and provides for you every day.
iii. Option 2 is Pay Your Debt – and Jesus doesn’t give a set percentage. Christians always need to discern what that debt is, and it’s a moving target from season to season.
iv. Sometimes we need to step up and support our political leaders and our government above and beyond the norm, but there are also
times when we as Christians need to step back and protest when it is abusive and tyrannical.
5. But what about an Option 3 – one that’s not so obvious but Jesus wants us to dig in and find it.
a. Complete the triangle: what does God want to give to ‘Caesar?’ What does God want to offer to the world of politics and government?
b. To me that’s an easy one to answer: God wants to give politics Jesus… through YOU.
i. Jesus stood before governors and kings and asked them to decide who
he really was.
ii. Read the last half of the Book of Acts: it’s a story of the Apostle Paul proclaiming Jesus to cities and towns and to the highest thrones of power.
c. Being a follower of Jesus and being involved in politics as an officeholder, campaigner, or activist is a calling for some, not for all.
i. But being sent into the world for Christ, including the world of politics, public life and citizenship is a sending for all, not just some.
ii. As people of faith we are the inscription of God’s image on the world.
d. So, Christian Democrats, Christian Republicans, Christian Libertarians, Christian Greens, Christian independents and undecideds…
i. We are the ‘sent ones.’ Giving back is just the obligation. Giving of ourselves as living sacrifices is the mission.
6. So what are we sent to give? The Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. 13:13 says it’s three things.
a. Faith – knowing the truth and speaking it into the world of politics and government while also living it with integrity.
i. And above all, putting our trust in God, not in the shortsighted and temporary attempts of humans.
b. Hope – remaining optimistic that God can
redeem even the ugliest and most evil attempts of humans to govern, and the conviction that we don’t have to be ugly prickly pears ourselves just so we can have a voice in the debate.
c. The greatest gift we can give? Love.
i. Can love really have a place in politics? Come next week and let’s see.