May 28, 2019
Titus 3:1-3 (NLT)
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
My mom saw President Kennedy speak in Houston the night before he was assassinated. I saw President Bush give a surprise campaign speech at a honky-tonk in college. We have a competition going between us of who has seen the most presidents in person, and I’m currently ahead 5-4.
But one day when we were comparing scores, my Granny trumped us both: For the first time she revealed that when she was nine-years-old President Warren G. Harding held her up before a crowd of people. Her father ran the local railroad station and knew Harding would be making a campaign stop, so he brought his little girl to meet the President.
“How come you’ve never told us that,” we asked stunned, “because how many people can say they’ve been held by a President!”
“I never told anyone,” she said, “because he just wasn’t a real good president.”
If I listed off all the presidents I’ve seen and why and who I’ve voted for (I’m not) then half of you would feel we could get along and the other half would probably quit reading. We all have pretty strong feelings about this, which makes for a confusing witness because when “our candidate” is in power we like to champion Paul’s admonition to “submit to the government and its officers.” But when it’s the other party we easily and quickly shift to “That’s not my president!” and cling to words like “resistance.”
The earliest Christians mixed politics and religion by declaring, “Jesus is Lord!” which also meant, “Caesar is not!” But let’s be honest and confess that for many of us today the temptation and tendency is to say, “Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not… unless it’s my Caesar.”
We’re still looking at this admonition from Paul to Titus to “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good,” and the struggle to understand why Paul would say this if the Bible is full of people (including himself) who didn’t submit.
I think the key is found in the next verse: “They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good.”
In another letter Paul takes doing good further: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Context is everything, so here’s the deal: Paul is writing to a fringe community. I think Paul calls for submission to governing authorities not because they’re in line with God, but because it is part of his readers’ witness. It sets Jesus’ followers up as a contrast to other rebelling fringe communities. If they’re another group rebelling against Caesar, then they’re no different. This makes their life stick out for the reign of God, and that is doing good.
So what does doing good look like in a “Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not… unless it’s my Caesar” culture? Here’s a test: If we’re more excited and spend more time talking about who we voted for than about Jesus and his Kingdom then we’re missing it. If we’re spending more energy evangelizing what our candidate promises than what Jesus has already done, we’ve lost our witness (and maybe our soul).
The urge to make any Caesar more than they are is a temptation of the church, but as Paul continues in his letter to Timothy: “For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Because Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not. Period.
To be continued…
Jesus, I pray for all people, and intercede especially for our leaders. I pray that we could live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity, because you are Lord. Caesar is not. And I am not. Amen.
Do you find you give more time and energy to what your candidate promises than what Jesus has already done? I know I have. Let’s repent.
For the awakening,