“They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” vs. 21
The relationship between church and state has been debated from the beginning and almost every Christian theologian has spent time sorting out its intricacies. In our country we’ve long maintained that there is a boundary between the two that shall not be violated. Frequently the words of Jesus in this text have been quoted to back that sort of strict separation…but as folks have long realized, it’s just not that simple. The big question is, “Which things that are the emperor’s are not included in those things which belong to God?” The answer is of course, “None of them…all things belong to God…including those things claimed by emperors.” In other words, the activities of both church and state cannot be separated from God’s purview. Both bishops and presidents are responsible to God! God works through both church and state to establish justice and peace through all the earth. Obviously, in practical terms, there’s been a division of responsibilities. The president will lead in matters related to governance and the rule of law. The bishop will lead in proclaiming the good news and in tending to human souls. The focus is different for the church and the state…but things go best when they work together…and things really can go wrong when either the church or the state seeks domination.
Thought for the Day: When is it proper for the church to critique the state?