Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trapped! by Carolyn

If it wasn't clear before, it sure is now, that members of our political parties are having trouble getting along with one another. Does that mean we must have trouble too? How does a Christian discuss politics, remain civil and calm, and yet, stay loyal to her ideals, or happily compromise without feeling weakened? How can we avoid the pitfalls of a political trap so that we don't have to chew off our own legs getting out? Answer: Don't fall in!

Let's see what Jesus did when this happened to Him. The Scripture comes from Matthew 22: 15-21.

"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in His words. They sent their disciples to Him along with their Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know You are a man of integrity and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because You pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is Your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought Him a denarius, and He asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then He said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." When they heard this, they were amazed so they left him and went away."

Every one of us has probably been in a situation like this. You can feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Your palms sweat. Your heart beats a little faster. Maybe your tummy churns. You know you are about to be drawn into a debate you don't want to have. Or, perhaps the opposite is true. You are sure you can persuade some people to your point of view, and most people agree with you anyway because you are right. It's so obvious! Are we Pharisees setting the trap? Or are we going to do as Jesus said and give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's?

Jesus immediately recognized the Pharisees' motives were evil. He says so. When a conversation begins to escalate, no matter which role you are playing, quickly examine your motives. 'If I participate in this can I do so respectfully?' If it is obvious that, like Jesus, you are being set up with flattery, or are setting someone up by asking a controversial, or provocative question, should you proceed? If you so, are you prepared to take responsibility for your words before they are spoken? Can you control your emotions? Are you being respectful?

If you answer yes, prayerfully, then perhaps you are ready. But if you answer no, and sense danger, or blood, then this might be an excellent time to take Jesus' advice and give God what is God's. The coin belonged to Caesar. It had Caesar's portrait on it. Caesar minted it (or printed it) and Caesar can take it back.

But Christians have dual citizenship. "Give unto God what is God's." Rather than being dragged into or dragging someone into a debate anyone can have about this world, what about calling on your other citizenship and rendering unto Him what is His? "Go and make disciples of all nations."

Jesus calls upon His children to give to their government. We are obliged to participate. We should want to participate and be grateful that we are able to do so. But, are we fulfilling our responsibility to God by insisting our politics are right, or by spending too much of His time defending our own points of view? It's all about balance. Have we given more to one than the other? Like all of us, I need to think about that.

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