We Belong To God
According to the Gospel of Mark, religious and political leaders came together to try and trick Jesus with a slippery question. They asked Jesus "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?"
If Jesus had answered "No," they would have reported him to the authorities for sedition. If Jesus had answered "Yes," he would have been discredited in the eyes of the common people, who flocked to hear him speak.
Instead, Jesus asked them to bring him a Roman coin that was stamped with Caesar's image. He took the coin, and then asked, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They replied, "The emperor's."
Then Jesus said, "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God's."
This response forces the crowd to ask two follow-up questions.
The first question would have been, "What belongs to God?" And the answer for Jesus and many of the people who were gathered there would have been: "Everything."
Then they would have asked, "So, then what belongs to Caesar?" Jesus slyly implies that the answer to that question is, in fact, "Nothing."
Jesus' words must have sent a thrill through the common people standing there listening.
To people who felt that they had nothing and Caesar and his crowd had everything, it was an amazing, liberating moment to hear that God, the Creator, and Sustainer of the Universe was for them and that they belonged to Him, not to Caesar.
The same thrill should fill our hearts as well.
Although we may be forced from time to time to deal with corrupt political realities... Although we may struggle with the hypocrisy of religious institutions who often collude with the Empire of the day... We are not owned by them.
We belong to God. And our belonging to God sets us free.
You see, true freedom comes when we realize God's great love for us, and we respond to that love by offering to God our heart, soul mind, and strength--in other words, everything.
When we let go of all of the things that are holding us back from loving God, we are set free.
True freedom comes when we learn to love our neighbor as our self--breaking down the false divisions created by the Empire to keep us in our places.
When we are finally able to see the world as God sees it, we are free to love others unconditionally.
May you experience the great joy and freedom that comes from knowing that in life and death you belong to God. May you find peace in the knowledge that when God is for you, nothing can truly stand against you.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.