Allegiance to Whom?

Institutional Christianity has a long and sordid history of mixing Church and State. The temptation to use political power to impose “right” beliefs and sociopolitical agendas is too great. Advancing “Christianity” through the political mechanisms of this world always necessitates resorting to the coercive power of the State, and this corrosive mixture inevitably corrupts the Church and destroys its testimony for Jesus.

The marriage of Church and State is contrary to the teachings and example of Jesus. Rather than the Imperial Throne, he chose the path of the ‘Servant of the LORD.’ When tempted by Satan with power over “the kingdoms of the world,” he refused the offer, choosing instead to embrace the role of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.

Cross - Photo by Timeo Buehrer on Unsplash
[Photo by Timeo Buehrer on Unsplash]

The most startling detail of the story as recorded in
Matthew is that the Messiah of Israel did not dispute the Devil’s claim to have jurisdiction over the governments of this fallen age. Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the “kingdoms of the world (kosmos) and their splendor.” He offered far more than just sovereignty over the Jewish nation. Effectively, he offered him the very thing the Son of God came to inaugurate, namely, the Kingdom of God.

In Luke’s version, the Tempter boasted that he could give Jesus “all this authority” if only he would acknowledge Satan’s overlordship. “It has been delivered to me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it.” To acquire unlimited power, Jesus only needed to “give obeisance” to the Devil and acknowledge him as his sovereign.

Jesus was the Messiah appointed by God to reign over the Earth, yet how could he subdue the rebellious nations without the military and economic might of the State? Satan offered a shortcut, a way for him to avoid suffering while still acquiring political power – (Psalm 2:6-8).

Imagine all the good Jesus could accomplish if he sat on Caesar’s Throne! With Roman power at his command, would not righteousness prevail across the Empire? Surely, if ever there was justification for resorting to State power, this was it. Who was better qualified to wield the might of the World Empire than the Prince of Peace?

Rather than yield to temptation, Jesus submitted to the path of the ‘Suffering Servant.’ True victory would be achieved through self-denial and his sacrificial death. “Greatness” in God’s Kingdom was measured by acts of mercy, especially to enemies. Contrary to popular expectations, Jesus chose to “take on the form of a slave” and become “obedient unto death, even death upon a cross.”

Because of his choice, God exalted him to reign over the Cosmos, and He gave him the “name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” However, the Cross preceded his ascension to the Davidic Throne.

He summoned his disciples to adopt this same self-denying mind and to walk the same path of self-sacrificial service. “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” His followers become “complete as your Father in heaven” by loving and doing good to their enemies, not by destroying them. The reign of God can never be achieved through the sinful ways and corruption of the political systems of this evil age - (Matthew 5:43-48, Philippians 2:6-11).

We must take seriously the Scriptural portrayal of political power as being under Satan’s overlordship. If he works behind the scenes, and if the possession of political power necessitates giving allegiance to him, and since Jesus refused to do so, should we not do likewise? How do we reconcile the use of political power with his sacrificial death on the Cross?

The choice before us is whether to embrace the teachings and example of Jesus and give our absolute allegiance to him or to emulate the ways of this world and become vassals of the Devil.

  • Caesar's Devotees - (The group called the inhabitants of the earth represents men who are omitted from the Book of Life because they give their allegiance to Caesar)
  • My Rights or His Cross? - (To follow Jesus necessitates a life of self-denial, a willingness to suffer persecution for him, and to selflessly serve others)
  • Allegiance - (In Revelation, “all” men must choose between loyalty to the Beast from the sea or the sacrificial Lamb)