God Help Us

“But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

Jesus did not need anyone to tell Him that mankind is broken. He did not need anyone to tell Him that we are fickle. That we are so very inclined to put ourselves first and others second. Or that we have a problem with God telling us what to do. Or that we have spent thousands of years killing, hurting, neglecting, ignoring, and cheating our selves and each other in the names of God, country, tribe, clan, race, political party, and most of all, in the name of self.

Jesus did not need anyone to tell Him how rotten we all are. I am not saying anything that is any more shocking or negative than the Holy Spirit said in Romans, chapter 3:

“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.
THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING, THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS;
WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS;
THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.
THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

From the obvious, violent crimes such as physical assault and murder, to the subtle effects of indifference and self-centeredness, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

I say all this to emphasize one simple point: we must look up. We must listen to the God who is above us; submitting to His instructions. We must “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord,”(James 4:10). We must accept His boundless, scandalous grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), and then we must walk in His light (1 John 1:7). We must continually rededicate ourselves to His service (Romans 12:1-2).

We cannot intellectualize ourselves out of wickedness in the academy. We cannot legislate ourselves out of wickedness on Capitol Hill. We cannot bomb ourselves out of wickedness on a battlefield. We cannot lock up all of the wicked people in a jail somewhere. We cannot spend our way out of wickedness at the mall. We cannot diet our way, or entertain our way, or sanitize our way out of wickedness in our homes.   For that matter we cannot even discipline our way out of our own wickedness if we will not look up.

Man cannot help us.

God, help us.

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Jesus and Politics

Do you ever wonder what Jesus would say about politics if He were alive today? Would He endorse a certain candidate or political party? Would He take a stance on specific legislation, or at least on particular issues?

Jesus did not talk much about politics, His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). He actually had opportunities to gain great political power and turned them down (John 6:15). But there was one occasion on which Jesus was asked point blank about His stance on a specific political issue. In Mark 12, it is recorded that a group of Pharisees and Herodians asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”

As it turns out, the poll-tax was a “hot button issue” in Jesus’ day. Historians tell us that it had been instituted in 5 A.D. when Jesus was a boy, and its institution was the cause of political riots. In fact, a man named Judas of Galilee had led a revolt in which He cleansed the temple and told fellow Jews not to pay the poll-tax. In a sense, the poll-tax had become a symbol of the oppression of God’s people by Caesar.

It is no coincidence that Jesus, having spent time preaching about a new kingdom (Matthew 4:17) and having recently cleansed the temple (Mark 11:15-19) was asked for a firm stance on this issue.

And the answer to this question was probably contested by the Pharisees (who opposed Roman rule) and the Herodians (who supported it), meaning that Jesus was being asked about a sensitive issue in front of two political parties who disagreed. To make the situation even more difficult, they ask Him in a way that demanded a straightforward answer: “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” (Mark 12:15). There was no getting around it, Jesus might have to step on someone’s toes.

His answer was brilliant. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In one sentence, He must have both pleased and offended both the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees would be offended that Jesus seemed to support the tax, but pleased that He esteemed God above Caeser. The Herodians would be pleased that Jesus seemed to support the tax, but offended that Jesus would suggest that an allegiance to God might undermine an allegiance to Caesar.

Essentially, Jesus revealed that the issues at stake were more far reaching and complicated than these religious and political leaders were making them out to be. Sure, the money was stamped by Caesar’s mint and had his image on them, so paying the tax was just. But the bigger issue of sorting out allegiances to God and government was and continues to be more nuanced than that.

Maybe if Jesus were around today, He would manage to do what He did in the gospel accounts. He might very well offend all of us, wherever we might stand on particular issues. He might very well defy all political categorization. He might teach us that among all of the complex issues of life, God must have first place (Matthew 6:33), the golden rule must govern our actions (Matthew 7:12), and that His word must be our guide above and beyond all parties and politicians (Mark 12:17, Psalm 119:105).

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