In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“The Lord is my shepherd . . . surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” God your Good Shepherd has established in this world two conduits, to channel his goodness and mercy into your life. These two conduits of God’s goodness and mercy are represented by the two flags at the front of our sanctuary, the Church and the State.
What is the purpose of the Christian Church? Maybe the Christian Church is like a museum, to collect together and put on display all the good people? But, the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one . . . if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” If the Christian Church is a museum for the sinless, none of us would get in door.
Maybe the Christian Church is like a health club, for the soul. If you follow the strict regimen, if you work hard enough, you’ll shed that ugly sin, and build up the goodness it takes to get you into heaven. But, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians, “By observing the law no one will be justified.” If the Christian Church is a spiritual health club for you to build up your own salvation and earn your own way into heaven, then you might as well cancel your membership, because you’ll never get there.
If the Christian Church is not a museum for the sinless, or a health club to build up your own salvation, then what is it? The Christian Church is a hospital, where spiritually sick sinners like you and me are GIVEN God’s miracle cure for sin, forgiveness through faith in Christ. Paul puts it this way in Galatians: “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Jesus also loved you and gave himself for you: Living a perfect life to make up for your imperfection; dying on the cross as your substitute; enduring in your place the punishment for your sins; and rising from the dead as God’s declaration to the world: Your sins are all forgiven.
Paul expresses the Good News of the Christian Gospel beautifully in 1st Timothy: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.” That is God’s miracle cure for sin, which the Church dispenses: Because God’s Son Jesus Christ gave himself as ransom for you, you are justified, cured of sin in God’s sight. As the book of Acts says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
It’s easy to understand that the Christian Church is a conduit that God uses to channel his goodness and mercy into your life. But, why do we have that other flag up here, in a place of honor, at the front of our sanctuary? Listen again to what Paul says about government in today’s Epistle Reading from Romans: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Most people think government is a human invention, something mankind ingeniously figured out, as a way to make our lives better. But, government is really divinely established, the other conduit that GOD has established in this world to channel his goodness and mercy into your life.
The word “anarchy” means “no government.” It was 25 years ago this summer that there were terrible riots in Los Angeles, and the result of just a few hours of anarchy was horrendous death and destruction, from which that part of the city and the people living there have never really recovered. It’s frightening to imagine what our world would be like if anarchy like that was the rule instead of the exception. Violent chaos, not just for a few hours, here and there, now and then, but everywhere, all the time, every day. You and your loved ones and all that we hold dear would be destroyed.
It is for that reason God in his wisdom established government among us, for our good, to maintain order in our world. And it is our duty as good Christians to also be good citizens, to support the government God has placed over us.
It is actually God who requires us to support the government by paying taxes, as Paul says in today’s Epistle Reading: “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue.” And as Jesus declares in today’s Gospel Reading: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.”
It is also our duty as Christians to support the government by obeying its laws, as Paul commands in today’s Epistle Reading: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Paul also tells Pastor Titus, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient.”
The only exception to obeying the government is if the government either commands you to do what God forbids, or forbids you to do what God commands, as in Acts when the government forbid the Apostles to preach about Jesus, and they replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”
In the democratic system God has placed us in, it is also our duty as Christians to support the government by participating in the political process, by exercising the privilege of voting—that is all part of rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.
Finally, it is our special duty and privilege as Christians to support the government with our prayers, on behalf of the government and our rulers, as Paul tells Pastor Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
“The Lord is my shepherd . . . surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” God your Good Shepherd has established in this world two conduits to channel his goodness and mercy into your life, represented by the two flags at the front of our sanctuary, the Church and the State.Amen.