In the last post I talked about what gives us our identity… and more specifically… how we live lives that are rendered to God. I mean, we ARE created in the image of God, but how do we live like we are? That brought me to this passage in Mark… well, there is more to say about it so… in case you missed it… here’s that passage again.
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. Mark 12:13-17
It’s pretty obvious that if we are created in the image of God, with His image and likeness on us, than we are supposed to render ourselves to Him. As I asked in last post: how do we do that? First, I said rendering our lives means rendering our motivations, but rendering our lives to God also means rendering our allegiance to Him.
Now what is allegiance exactly? When I hear that word I immediately think of the Pledge of Allegiance… you know, that thing you had to recite so often when you were a kid. I still remember mornings in the schools I attended… the principal would come over the intercom and give the announcements of the day, and then the whole school would stand up, put our hands over our hearts, and with once voice would say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Now, admit it… before reading this you had probably forgotten the words…
When you’re a kid though, it’s just what you do… it’s a way to instill patriotism without actually explaining patriotism, because they never get down to what “allegiance” is. They never explain that you are giving your loyalty and commitment to the flag and to the nation above everything else. They just want you to get up and say it.
But what about the allegiances of the major players in our scene here? Well, the Herodians had built themselves a nice little niche with the ruling Roman government and so they were intensely loyal to maintaining the status quo with Rome. They wanted the people to pay their taxes and do their part to be good Roman citizens. So, it’s likely they saw Jesus as an inciter that threatened a government revolution. For them, Jesus had to go.
For the Pharisees, they bore their allegiance to the traditions of the Jewish faith and their authority hinged on maintaining the religious status quo. They wanted people to obey them as their leaders, make their sacrifices to God, celebrate the appropriate festivals and look to God to reestablish Israel against Roman rule as a physical kingdom. Jesus was an obvious threat to that. He called Himself the Son of God, the Messiah, and challenged the traditions that kept the Pharisees in control. Again, Jesus had to go.
The great thing we have to remember about our Lord is that at any moment Jesus could have called armies of angels from heaven and had the power and authority to strike down all those that came against Him, but His allegiance was to the will of God, and it was that allegiance that took Him to the cross. As Philippians 2:6-8 states
[Jesus] though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Christ’s allegiance was to the will of the Father, and it was His obedience that makes it so we can be redeemed, saved, and transformed into the image God intended for us.
In our day, it can be difficult to understand that kind of allegiance… but the truth is we make decisions everyday that demonstrate who we are committed to, where our loyalties are, and where our allegiances lie.
When we choose to spend unnecessary hours at our jobs rather than developing strong spiritual foundations in our families, we are demonstrating our allegiance. When we get in that early round of golf on Sunday morning rather than making weekly corporate worship a priority, we demonstrate our allegiance. When we would rather spend our money padding our comfortable, cushy lives more than advancing the mission of God’s church, we demonstrate our allegiance.
Now, I’m not trying to guilt trip anybody here… the fact is, often where I say I pledge my allegiance and where I actually live out that allegiance is totally different. But that fact is that God did create us in His image, to reflect His glory in the world, and a big part of doing that is aligning ourselves with His will and purpose first and foremost.