Tea parties and taxes have taken center stage this week across the American landscape. Paying taxes in general, and on April 15th in particular, has long been a source of concern for many Americans. In addition, this year we have bail outs, stimulus plans and tea parties. It is safe to say that many Americans are disturbed about the direction of current events. Then, this week the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about dangers from right wing extremists. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this report is its definition of right extremism.
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration. Page 2 Office of Intelligence and Analysis – Assessment – April 7, 2009
It doesn’t take much imagination to see that this definition could easily include those who are committed to biblical Christianity. So, how should committed Christians respond? How should we speak to our children about these issues? Are protests and tea parties the way for Christians to respond?
As citizens, carefully considered, respectful protests–such as the growing number of tea parties-are certainly appropriate. As Christians, we can and, indeed, must do more. Our focus must move beyond taxes and tea parties to being salt and light. Ultimately, one’s security does not rest upon the government, but upon the purpose and plan of God. It is important to maintain this balance. The apostle Paul used his knowledge of Roman law to challenge officials when needed, but he was more concerned to honor God and address issues of eternal significance. The enemy would prefer that Christians be dominated by temporal issues. After all, when a Christian focuses mainly on temporal issues, he becomes just like the world around him, and then he ceases to function as salt and light. The religious leaders tried to trap Jesus into becoming embroiled with the political issues of their day. Luke 20:20-26 records this attempt.
“Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.”
Christ kept the balance. He did not allow himself to be defined by the world’s issues. The apostles and early church leaders had this balance also–the Caesars were no friends of Christianity nor of political freedom; Christianity spread rapidly in the first century under oppressive, often violent opposition from the state. Christianity spread because its focus was on being salt and light.
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