Jesus uses some interesting words as he responded to the question of the Pharisees. He first points them to the inscription and the image on the coin asking the Pharisees whose image and whose inscription. The answer is clear it is Caesar’s image and inscription. Then he said repay what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
What belongs to God begs the question of whose image is imprinted on us. We who are made in the image and likeness of God and have his law inscribed on our hearts should come to grips with how we are to acknowledge God with our words, actions and thoughts. What trips us up when it comes to our witness of faith? Most of us today are not challenged at all because we have isolated ourselves from issues and avoid the confrontations that would challenge our beliefs and knowledge of our faith. By avoiding uncomfortable challenges to our faith we are not giving God what belongs to God.
Daily we as Christians still are under attack by a society that believes we should be silenced. Just this month in a Georgia college a student was told he could not preach about Jesus in a zone designated for free speech zone because he was disturbing the peace. A Virginia school superintendent ordered the removal of a bench honoring a student who died because the bench had a bible verse etched into it. His reasoning was that it would not be legally compliant even though no one had complained about the biblical verse. The fourth circuit U.S. Appeals Court ordered the removal of a memorial erected by a city in Maryland in 1925 honoring the death of soldiers killed during the WW I. The court sated it because the memorial was formed in the shape of the cross it must be removed.
I could give you more examples of these constant challenges to our faith but until we begin to understand how important it is for us to render to God something more than one hour on a Sunday we will never understand the importance of giving back to God what belongs to God – our willingness to stand for our belief in and our love of God.
In last week’s gospel God gave us an invitation and we were shown how life gets in the way of our accepting the invitation. Well today we see that life as dictated by government and others who do not share our faith use government to keep us away from the visible and verbal witness of our faith in God. The sad part is we willingly comply by our silence and by not standing up for our beliefs.
Recently I watched the movie God is not Dead II about a high school teacher who lost her job because a student asked her a religious question and she answered the student. How many teachers would have avoided the question so as not to avoid any controversy and the disciplinary action which would follow? We don’t know if others would or would not have put it all on the line. But as I read about the constant onslaught of atheist pushing us out of the public arena it become clear we are silenced. We are not rendering to God what belongs to God. He died for love of us and we are allowing the world to define for us where we can give witness to our love of him.
Let me put this into a context you or I would consider as not relevant to the directive to give back to God the things that belong to God.
C. S. Lewis says we need to awaken the real self and to stop being like actors playing a role before God. He said we put on a mask and play this role and play it so well and so often we keep that mask on when pray to God. He says we must put aside the mask and invite God into the depths of our being where God can transform us shattering that image we have of ourselves. It is only then when God can reveal new things to us so that we say “we never realized that before.” It is this kind of awakening that moves us to be witnesses in all we say and all we do. It is this kind of awakening that helps us understand God wants our hearts and nothing less than our hearts.
God is inviting us not to a masquerade ball but he is inviting us to be his witnesses by our willingness to acknowledge him before others even if it costs us everything. I am reminded not of that teacher portrayed in the movie God is not Dead I but of Cassie Barnall a 17 year old student at Columbine High School. During the shooting rampage of Eric Harris he stood over Cassis and asked her if she believed in God. Cassie never hesitated she said yes and was killed as she acknowledged her belief in God.
It would have been easy for Cassie to say no and live. Our choices are much simpler but all too often we follow the easy path of following the crowd rather than stand up for what we believe.
Render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God. We most likely will never have to make a choice like Cassie but instead it comes to us in subtle ways that can kill our relationship with God because we choose to be silent. It is when we are bold in proclaiming our belief in Jesus Christ and the Mercy of God that the hearts in others are moved to seek that same God we acknowledge.