Friday, April 23, 2010

God's Competitor

John 19:15, "We have no king but Caesar."

In the context of the passage Pilate is now trapped; in order to survive politically (and perhaps physically) he must condemn Jesus. The Jewish leaders have coerced the crowd in their devious complicity so that the cross is now just a matter of time. Pilate has no where to go intellectually except to condemn Jesus. How did this occur? The issue of ultimate authority has become the apex of discussion. The final discussion ended when the crowd said, "We have no king but Caesar." Pilate, who represents Caesar, then was required to capitulate.

It is interesting in the world of human affairs how often this very question becomes the primary center of debate. The question of ultimate authority is the ultimate question of all. Who is in charge, and is this power just and right? All through human history the story of this issue is prominently displayed, and the conflict between competing options is all the more obvious. Hitler, Stalin, and all other tyrants demanded capitulation from the dominant religion of their day. If the religious institution in question did not acquiesce, then it would be destroyed by the state. The state would not allow for another competing power.

It is the same today. The state, in the minds and logic of many people, is the lord and savior of the people. Notice how many times the state is presented as solving problems, correcting injustices, and granting favors. How can a state assume to do such audacious things? There is only one way to do all of this - BE IN CHARGE AS THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. All others must bow in obedience to the state. The state becomes enthroned as the merciful bestow er of gifts or the punishing avenger of all competitors. And the single solitary competitor of the state is religion.

The United States of American was born in a pristine vision in this regard. Our national documents seek to protect both the state from the tyranny of religion, and they seek to protect religion from the state. Can these two (state and religion) be held in constant and continuous tension? Can they seek to co-exist without one imposing on the other? The Founding Fathers of the USA thought so, and they sought to make it so.

Let us pray, as the state seems to grow in power and assertiveness, that our original American vision rises in the hearts and minds of the people to protect religious people from the restraints and the demands of Caesar. Let Christian people never join in the chorus, "We have no king but Caesar."

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