October 19: What the State Cannot Do
‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ (Matt. 15:21)
As Christians, we have a commitment to all persons; we must seek to assess and act on behalf of what is best for everyone. ‘The common good’ refers to that discernment, and sums up our responsibility as citizens in the public sphere.
Here we wrestle with thankless political realities. Which candidate and/or issue best reflects who and what are best for everyone? No easy answers here and those we choose may conflict with the Christian next door. No matter; differences in opinion do not release us from responsibility in the public sphere, from acting according to conscience.
I struggle with that responsibility; in truth, I am a sluggish political animal at best. I shy away from our system as I tend to think most politicians pander to popular opinion rather than stand in the truth of what is best. Prophets tend not to get elected. Perhaps all the more reason for thoughtful Christians to be truthful, vocal, and countercultural!
When we know something is from God and we stand for it publicly we render to God what is His. For example, we at DSM value marriage; we believe that God ordained marriage for creating and raising children. Politically, we view marriage as a common good for all citizens. In spite of a deluge of opinion to the contrary, we are certain that redefining marriage will have a corrosive impact on generations-to-come. Our tenuous grasp on gender order and clarity will be further loosened by ‘gay marriage.’ So we believe that curbing personal rights (a ‘gay’ person’s right to marry) is just. Such a limit contributes to the common good.
What then can Caesar (the government) not accomplish? In other words, what does Jesus mean when He implores us to give Caesar his due (in contrast to God’s)? I will answer in the negative: that means we recognize that the state cannot intrinsically change the hearts of its citizens. The state cannot make us good. Truthful laws limit us, mirror our folly, and may level us. Yet only God can raise us up.
We are back to the Cross, aren’t we? Its logic has been sown deeply into the hearts of men and women through the Church–her preaching of Christ Crucified — ‘God died and God now lives.’ In and through Him, the Church invites us to surrender to the same God and become fruitful in the power that catapulted Jesus from the tomb. All we must do is count ourselves dead to our lawlessness, our folly, our self-serving presumptions. No small shift. A costly pivot and path, made possible by Jesus Himself.
The state cannot mandate the Cross. God chose freely to save us on that Cross, and every person must be free to either embrace or refuse its rhythm. We cannot make the state a church. Yes, we can and should champion what we believe is best for all. And Caesar may, or may not, represent our consciences well. Deeper still is our commitment to what only God can do through His Church. Only she can help establish us deeply in the way of the Cross. The goal: that surrender to the Crucified may give rise to righteousness, transformation from the inside out.
‘The Cross is a well-recognized truth—a living, real, and effective truth. It is buried in the soul like a seed that takes root there and grows, making a distinct impression on the soul, determining what it does and omits…From this living form and strength in one’s depths, a perspective of life arises–the image one has of God and of the world.’ St. Edith Stein, The Science of the Cross
Join us as we pray for:
1. Pacific Southwest Region, Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Don Sciortino, Coordinator: For strength and vision for Don Sciortino as well as existing groups in region.
2. Torrents de Vie (LW France): For the Lord to continue to strengthen and protect the leaders Werner & Charlotte and their team and for more male leaders to be raised up.
3. RHN: About Hope, Ted & Jan Schneider, Springdale, AR: prayer for those struggling with SSA attending parents group. Hope 2 Turn, Eric & Amanda Lundstrom, Rockford, IL: May all the men the Lord desires attend bi- monthly meeting in Elgin; for a will to change and breakthrough in Michael B’s life.
“Courage for Reverend Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”