RENDER UNTO CAESAR

This is a great post from THE RESURGENCE, the blog of Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll).  Matt Wilson gives us some important food for thought. – Steve

Render Unto Caesar: In All Things Charity

Matt Johnson » Church Worldviews Ethics Culture

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15–16)

We are to lift up the name of Jesus, proclaim his kingdom and call all people to repentance and life under his gracious rule.

Mrs. Manners and dinner party conversation

Mrs. Manners 101: politics and religion are not polite topics of conversation in mixed company. At the church I attend (Mars Hill Church in Seattle), politics are curiously absent from conversation. But it’s not as if our community is shy about controversial topics. No, the lack of political talk doesn’t have anything to do with fear of killing the dinner party vibe but everything to do with identity and calling. The church exists to lift up the name of King Jesus and to call all people to live under his gracious rule. All other causes—including Chevy versus Ford, Coke versus Pepsi, and political party endorsement—will always be secondary to the cause of the gospel.

In all things charity

Augustine’s oft-quoted maxim, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” is a wise stance to take as Christians in political discourse and practice. My church favors expository preaching, or studying entire books of the Bible in a series. When a loaded political subject arises—such as the sanctity of life or the biblical definition of marriage—you can be sure these issues are addressed biblically and unapologetically. However, there are things that Christians can disagree on. These issues go in the open hand where debate between brothers and sisters is encouraged. Then there are other issues, such as the abovementioned, that the Bible is very clear regarding. These are non-negotiable, closed-handed issues.

An IRS worker and an anarchist

Only Jesus could draw to himself a ragtag bunch of disciples that included a political zealot bent on seeing the overthrow of Roman rule (Simon) and a tax collector (Matthew) and bring them together for the singular cause of the Kingdom. Think about it. This pairing is the modern equivalent of a buttoned-down IRS worker and a black hooded sweatshirt-wearing anarchist sporting a bandana over the face. There isn’t a single cause or organization I can think of that could rally people of such disparate walks of life except the church. We all have tribes we run in. And each tribe has distinct rallying points. For the music fanatic, it’s their favorite band. For the activist, it’s The Cause. For the academic, it’s a favorite thinker or social experiment. But for the Christian, it’s Jesus.

Jesus rules over all.

Not choosing teams: the prophetic edge

My hope is that party-line endorsement and pet causes are secondary issues in your church community. Jesus rules over all, and no one earthly political party or “ism” has all the answers. From this vantage point the preacher has a prophetic word for everyone no matter what the affiliation. Republican, Democrat, Radical, Moderate, Independent or Undecided—none are off the hook from receiving the righteous judgment of the prophetic Word. Your party affiliation does not equal your justification. 

Civic, not political

Fostering a politically uncommitted church isn’t really the point. Civic engagement should always be encouraged. This most definitely has a political component, but in a secondary way. Because we love our cities, we seek the welfare of the city, and in turn we serve civic causes (Jeremiah 29:7). As an example, there are many in Mars Hill leadership that encourage, and participate in, civic engagement through neighborhood cleanups, partnering in business associations and neighborhood chambers of commerce. And we have encouraged community groups to apply for micro mission grants so that they can bless their neighborhoods. These are just a few examples of how the various ministries around Mars Hill are encouraged to give time and energy to civic causes for the good of the city.

Vote and serve with conviction

It is a blessing to live in a democratic society like America. We have freedoms and opportunities many do not—namely, the opportunity to participate in democracy, to influence public policy and to help direct social change as we engage the culture and back politicians we agree with. In addition, some Christians are called into the public square to run for various offices, and we thank God for their service and pray they remain faithful to both their work and faith. But we must remember to never confuse our role as the church. We are to lift up the name of Jesus, proclaim his kingdom and call all people to repentance and life under his gracious rule. Amen.

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