No king but Caesar

In September 1862, a group of Chicago ministers sent a “memorial” (or long letter) to President Abraham Lincoln in which they made a theological argument for the elimination of slavery.

Lincoln had also heard from Southern clergy who used the same scriptures to justify slavery’s preservation.

In response, Lincoln wrote the Chicago group with words that today’s Christians might consider when it comes to matters involving sexual harassment and the setting aside of moral and biblical principles to achieve temporary political goals.

“I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will. I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in the belief, and perhaps in some respects both. I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is I will do it! These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation. I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible and learn what appears to be wise and right. The subject is difficult, and good men do not agree.”

Lincoln eventually made the right decision that culminated in The Emancipation Proclamation. The divided nation shed much blood over slavery, and the fallout from that war continues today in racial conflict.

I have listened to arguments on both sides of the sexual harassment issue by “good men” (and women). There are those who believe allegations of sexual harassment of teens and young women by Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are sufficient to deny him a seat in the Senate. Others say that maintaining a 52-seat Republican majority is critical to advancing President Trump’s agenda, which includes seating more conservative judges on federal benches. This, they say, supersedes what Moore may or may not have done 40 years ago.

By cleaning house (and the Senate) of their own bad boys, many Democrats think they will gain a previously hidden moral authority to win back the House and impeach President Trump for his alleged past (and they believe more recent) misdeeds.

The Democrats’ agenda might be true, but for evangelical Christians should either argument matter more than the King and Kingdom they are supposed to serve?

Some biblical wisdom might be instructive. In the Old Testament, Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. He later regretted his decision, but at the time he was hungry and said his birthright meant little to him.

In the ultimate church-state moment where the crowd was forced to choose between demanding that Pilate give the order to crucify Jesus of Nazareth, or let Him go, there was this sobering exchange:

Pilate: “Shall I crucify your king?”

The chief priests: “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)

As then, today’s “chief priests” and church members are being asked to make a choice. One choice might give short-term satisfaction, as Esau experienced with his temporarily filled stomach, but it leads to a loss of credibility in the eyes of the world. It demonstrates that for Christians attaining earthly and temporal power is paramount.

Another verse that might help evangelicals: “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15).

Bob Dylan contemporized it this way: “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

It’s time to choose.

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