“DUAL CITIZENSIP” -
A sermon preached at the
Readings: Romans 13:1-7, Luke 20:20-26
“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” (Lk 20:25)
Let me ask you some simple questions:
Did you put on shoes this morning,
or did you come to church in a car?
§ Do you eat cereal for breakfast, or don't you like football?
§ Do you attend a Methodist Church, or do you live in the UK?
to the world of false dichotomies-
thing that are wrongly set against each other,
"either/or"s that really aren't.
Of course; in fact, you can be UK Methodist who wears
and eats cereal while enjoying football
after you've traveled to and from church in a car.
None of these things are mutually exclusive.
(Adapted from Tim Pauls, Your Two-Kingdom Life)
The Scribes and the Pharisees offer Jesus such a false
do you serve God or do you serve Caesar?
The question of taxes was very much a political hot potato of the day.
The tax being discussed was a poll tax introduced by
the Romans in
6 CE when Judea became a Roman province.
When imposed for the first time,
it provoked the rebellion of Judas the Galilean recorded in Acts 5:37.
The Herodians (the Party of
King Herod, the puppet King of Judea)
favoured the tax, but the Zealots (Judean Nationalists)
and the Pharisees (who were religious traditionalists) objected to it.
And of course the people (like most occupied nations
being forced to pay for the privilege of occupation) resented the tax.
But the Pharisees and the Herodians,
though normally disagreeing on almost everything,
are at one in opposition to Jesus -
so they join together to ask the sort of question
Jeremy Paxman would have been proud of -
the authority of Caesar be recognized
and the poll tax be paid to him?
If he says Yes, Jesus is open to
the charge of being an
anti-religious Quisling collaborator, a lapdog of the superpower
If he says No, he aligns himself
with extreme nationalists
and becomes liable to arrest without trial for 28 days or much worse….
of course refuses to give a Yes/No answer:
There is a tension between our religious faith
and our civic responsibility
We need to
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s to God what is God’s “
same way, we need to give appropriate allegiance
to both God and state.
But how do you do that?
Over the centuries, many Christians have said that
“Render unto Caesar” means simply
supporting the Government and the state come what may.
This argument is often built on Paul’s statement
that we should submit to civil authority.
You know the hymn -
which was sung at Princess Diana’s Funeral and her wedding -
“I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best…”
That hymn is no longer in our hymn book -
indeed in 2004 a Bishop of Hulme called for it not to be used
in Church of England services, calling it "totally heretical"
on the grounds that it places national loyalties above religious ones,
and encouraged racism & an unquestioning support of governments.
It is one thing to love your country -
quite another to support governments unconditionally.
The love that asks no questions -
the uncritical love of country
and support for the state, doesn’t relate to the Bible very well.
into almost any chapter of the OT prophets
and you will see that they are criticizing
the Kingdoms of Israel in general and their political leaders in particular
for all kinds of social, economic, military and political folly -
God is concerned with the whole of life, not just prayer and praise.
Maybe you hears a debate on
Radio 4 this morning -
Frank Field MP saying that those of us in the Churches
who opposed tighter immigration controls were naïve.
Well we might beg to differ.
But note: Frank Field didn’t say the Church was wrong in principle
to criticize the Government -
he said the Church had every right and duty to do that -
his argument was purely about the particular issue.
And of course knowing when to criticize Caesar is not always easy.
I’ve asked a couple of groups during the past week
whether they are happy about singing the National Anthem in a Church service -
I was quite surprised that most people had no problems with that
(although I did come across one or two Welsh dissenters).
Personally I am not so sure -
I suppose “Send her victorious” is OK -
but in an international Church like this you have to ask what sort of victory?
Victory over evil within our own nation? Fine.
Military Victory over other nations, right or wrong? No.
Economic victory for our workers
over the economically impoverished workers of the developing world?
Surely no again.
To pray for victory is a tricky concept.
When Jesus says “Render unto
Caesar that which is Caesar’s”,
he is not saying “Give unquestioning, partisan and sectarian support
to your nation against the greater good of wider human kind.”
Perhaps he is saying “Anarchy
and chaos is not normally
the basis for the growth of love and peace -
and so it may be that support for an imperfect Pax Romana
is the thing to do -
a line followed by St Paul when he tells the Christians of the Roman Empire
to support those in authority.
This is a contemporary issue.
The rule of Saddam Hussein (like that of Ancient Rome)
was undoubtedly cruel and tyrannical.
Removing Saddam (like the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century)
in part replaced tyranny with anarchy.
Deciding how long we continue paying taxes to Caesar
and when we start to disobey is tricky.
How racist or anti-Semitic or corrupt
must Caesar be
before we withhold our taxes and our support for the state?
At the end of the day we need
to remember that we are citizens of two Kingdoms -
the Kingdom of Earth and the Kingdom of Heaven.
We live in this world -
but this is not our ultimate home, our ultimate allegiance.
We are I suppose a bit like diplomats from a foreign state -
in this world but not of it -
living in a country but with ultimate allegiance elsewhere.
immersing ourselves in local concerns
but ultimately making judgments based on heavenly values.
But there is one big difference between the Christian
and the member of an Embassy staff
When a war torn state becomes unsafe and dangerous,
you often see the helicopters circling over the embassy compounds -
the diplomats are withdrawn to safety.
That is not God’s way.
We may be here as citizens of heaven -
but we are also here as God’s ambassadors
to identify with & remain alongside the poor and the needy.
We follow a Lord who went to
the cross in order to remain
alongside those in suffering and sin - as such he never leaves us.
God offers us citizenship of
but calls us to carry on his work in all the Kingdoms of earth.
Remember: The symbol of the Church is not
the helicopter of strategic withdrawal but the cross of suffering.
And we are called not to escape earth to heaven,
but to bring heaven to earth
Order of Service
Hymn 10 “Let all the world”
Prayers (Methodist Worship Book p. 185)
Reading: Romans 13:1-7 (p.1140)
Reading: Luke 20:20-26 (p.1055)
Hymn 322 “O Spirit of the living God”
Sermon: “Dual Citizenship”
Hymn 138 “Seek ye first”
Prayers of Intercession (MWB p. 188)
Hymn 700 “Lord, we have come at your own invitation”
Holy Communion (MWB p, 191)
Hymn 648 “The day thou gavest”