The question can be a hot button issue for Christians in the U.S. Political alignment and faith statements often overlap. Moral choices have become political bargaining chips. Any kind of faith statement is pigeon-holed into a political candidate’s platform. Where is your loyalty?
But the question of loyalty is not unique to this century. Part of our Gospel reading for this Sunday illustrates that the tension was present among Jews in the first century.
Luke 20:1, 20-26 NET
Now one day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the gospel, the chief priests and the experts in the law with the elders came up and said to him…
Then they watched him carefully and sent spies who pretended to be sincere. They wanted to take advantage of what he might say so that they could deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. Thus they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach correctly, and show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus perceived their deceit and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” They said, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Thus they were unable in the presence of the people to trap him with his own words. And stunned by his answer, they fell silent.
Some Jews wanted their independence from Rome (zealots). Some wanted to be fully acclimated into Roman and Greek culture and political life (followers of Herod). Some just lived regardless of the political environment.
For the opponents (chief priests and experts in the law) of Jesus, the easiest way to discredit him or undermine his popularity was to get him to take sides in the political environment. Surely that would stop him. Note their purpose: “so that they could deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.” It didn’t matter how he answered the questions, as long as he took sides, they could trap him.
But Jesus wouldn’t be trapped. His opponents did not understand who he was (and is) nor what he was teaching the people. The gospel was greater than anything they imagined. It could not be packaged and used as a political platform. Nor could they stop the gospel by forcing him into political allegiances.
Where is your loyalty? We face the same question today. How do we answer that? How can we be faithful to the Gospel and Jesus Christ while living in 21st century empires?
Find out more in our sermon this Sunday.