Friday, May 18, 2007

My coins, but not my sons

A couple of years ago, our pastor preached on Mark 12. While discussing vv. 13-17, he revealed to me a gem — one of those gems that was right there in front of me all along, yet one I’d never noticed before:
Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” So they brought it.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him.
In contrast to the denarius, an ancient Roman coin which bore both the image and inscription of Caesar, Pastor Niell asked us, “Whose image and inscription do you bear?”

Why, the image of Jehovah, and the inscription of the Triune God, I thought. It suddenly occurred to me that, while all men bear the image of God, it is His people alone who bear His inscription: the mark or seal of baptism.

Pretty basic stuff, yes? But something worth considering the next time Caesar claims the authority to conscript citizens to murder for him. (Which claim, I'm sorry to report, I expect to be revived in the very near future.)

And so, a quick note to you who happen to occupy the chair of former Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt:

Jesus says you can have my pennies and dimes. But neither I nor my children belong to you. God gives you no authority to snatch us up, hand us a rifle, and compel us to violate the Sixth Commandment.

For “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).

— • —

And incidentally, I was amazed and edified this past Mother's Day to learn that Julia Ward Howe — whatever her other theological misprisions — understood this doctrine well, as evidenced by the following excerpt from her Mother's Day Proclamation (written in 1870 in reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War):

... As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God. ...

No comments: