Sermons

Summary: America was founded upon the Christian understanding of life.

Sermon ~ “Rightly Dividing Church & State”

Matthew 22:15-21

There are those things that are more or less political, and those that our eternal. Our Lord says it like this within Matthew’s gospel: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”

They came to Jesus, the Pharisees, to get Him in trouble. Should they pay taxes to an emperor who had conquered and taken over God’s people?

If our Lord said a simple “no,” He would have been labeled an insurrectionist, and would be in trouble with Roman authorities. If Jesus had said, “yes,” he would have alienated many Jewish Zealots who despised Roman occupation.

Today, asserting that the Christian influence should be allowed into the public square, and particularly, the public classroom, gets one into the same kind of dilemma that our Lord faced.

If Mary says that Christian ideas should have the same access to the public schoolroom as do secular ideas, she is accused of going against the Supreme Court

and Thomas Jefferson’s often quoted “wall of separation.” If Tom says that Christianity has no place in a public classroom, he is in favor of the moral corruption of our youth.

Now our Lord’s answer was clearly intended to avoid the trap. He never answered the question put to Him by those who had laid the trap. He in effect forces them to decide for themselves.

Still, Jesus does imply, without any hedge, that there are things that belong to God, and things that belong to the political order.

What kinds of things might belong to the political order? In the United States we could list a number of things:

>>What kind of tax form should be used to report one’s earnings would belong to Caesar.

>>Where the state capitol should be located is also a political thing, not important to ultimate concerns.

>>How to divide voting districts is Caesar’s decision.

>>What roads in the state will be graveled, and what roads will be blacktopped might be important to some of us, but I don’t think it is a big item on God’s list.

I could go on and on with things that really are more or less secular in nature, and God gladly gives over to the administration of Caesar and his politicians.

Today I want to look at a deeper issue. In fact, I want to look at the foundation issue. Did our Founding Fathers, who gave us the foundation, consider religion to be distinct from American government and public learning? To say it another way, did the Founding Fathers consider public matters to be a purely secular thing, building a great wall to keep Christianity out of government and the public school?

Does it matter to God how these questions are answered? Would God prefer to keep the Bible out of the public square and classroom? Are there consequences to a right or wrong answer to these questions?

...His country was in disorder. It was struggling to find a beginning, a foundation for public life, after its hard fought war for independence. James Madison, along with Thomas Jefferson and others, began to form documents that would lead to a constitution for this new nation.

James Madison was one of the Founding Fathers for the United States of America, and its fourth president. He has been referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.” He wrote 29 of the 85 numbers to “The Federalist Papers” and was the architect who fashioned the Executive Branch within our constitution.

James Madison, Father of the Constitution and intimate friend of Thomas Jefferson, wrote in his famous article, Memorial and Remonstration: “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe...”

Now this is a big statement by a founder of our nation and the “father” of its constitution. He is saying, in effect, that for America, the civil arena–the public

square–is not for people who subject themselves first to “Caesar,” but to citizens who subject themselves to God. James Madison would disagree with the Supreme Court today– a court that wants to say that the public square and the public classroom are secular places where the will and meaning of God should have no say at all.

Does it matter what Madison thinks? A book was written some years back that looked statistically at what was happening to our children since the Supreme Court ruled against prayer in the classroom– a ruling that took place in 1963. Now, I know that there are dangers that concern us about the theology of those leading the prayers, etc., in a public setting, but that being noted, this book demonstrates a clear downward slide for the health and well-being of America’s youth since 1963.

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