Opinion: No matter what, Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not

by Peter Heck · Nov 3rd, 2020 8:44 pm

Last Updated Nov 4th, 2020 at 9:06 pm

It wasn't until just this last week, reading an opinion piece from an author that I agree with maybe 5% of the time, that I learned of this inscription that once adorned the imperial Roman walls of Asia Minor:

"[E]mperor Augustus … who being sent to us and our descendants as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order, having become god manifest… the birthday of the god Augustus has been for the whole world the beginning of the good news."

It wasn't just the ancient Pharaoh of Egypt who was regarded by his people as "god on earth"; the same went for Caesar. Which means that every time first century Christians uttered the eternal truth "Jesus is Lord," they were simultaneously boldly affirming before their contemporaries, "Caesar is not."

Every time they fell prostrate before Jesus their "Savior," every time they acknowledged Jesus as "God manifest," every time they sought to spread the "good news" about Jesus, they were defiantly juxtaposing themselves against the prevailing sentiment of the known world that haplessly worshiped earthly power.

May those of us who are ultimately defined by our citizenship in heaven more than our fleeting terrestrial residence be no different today.

Our King once taught us that it is the foolish who choose to construct their homes – that is, their lives, their faith, their confidence, their hope – on a foundation of sand. Those who do, tragically build up elaborate plans and expectations only to see them flattened by the relentless unpredictability of earthly fortune: economic downturns, unexpected loss, electoral revolutions.

No matter your perspective or priorities, earthly politics is full of empty words and broken promises. Remember, five Republican justices inflicted the scourge of abortion onto American society. And it was a Democratic administration that built the cages for children at the border. Empty words, broken promises.

That doesn't mean Christians should disengage the political realm and withdraw from the public square. To the contrary, we are unable to maximize our efforts to love our neighbor if we are not actively bringing our salt and light to the contentious debates over public policy. It does mean that we recognize our temporary alliances with man-made political movements as transient. We belong to a greater tribe, a higher kingdom, with a perfect King.

Which means regardless of what happens tonight, two things remain steadfast and unchanged for those of us called by the incomparable name of Christ Jesus: our hope in Him and our work for His kingdom.

As someone who once wrote a book about how Christians could "save" America, I've since been chastened by God to remember – now more than ever – that He doesn't need from me my long-term strategies or my pragmatic politics or my cunning calculations. He asks for my faithfulness, regardless of the conditions that surround me or the consequences that befall me.

In every era, we Christians have been abnormal to the world around us. Tomorrow, as that world melts down over the latest of these quadrennial contests for Caesar's throne, may it be no different.

May we be found in their eyes still curiously joyful in demeanor, loving in action, respectful in speech, confident in spirit, prayerful for both our leaders and those who consider themselves our enemies, and hopeful in all things.

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