By Chuck McKnight.
Part 7 in our "Jesus Untangled" Series.
More than two centuries ago, the founding fathers of this country signed a statement known as the Declaration of Independence. This document signaled the American colonies’ break from Great Britain. The colonists believed they were justified in this action—along with the bloody conflict itself—due to an increase in taxes without sufficient representation. In fact, many of them were convinced that God was on their side in the war for independence from their oppressors.
Let the revolution begin!
A similar situation existed two millennia ago. Much like the colonists under British rule, the Jews were under the oppressive rule of Rome. However, Israel was not a rightful colony of Rome; their land had been taken by force. Like the colonists, the Jews faced heavy taxation, but they also faced constant abuse, and their whole way of life was being destroyed. They couldn't do anything without the interference of Rome. Caesar even considered himself to be god—the ultimate blasphemy against Yahweh.
Surely, they were justified in their desire to break from Rome. Surely, God was on their side.
And then, rumors of a messiah began to surface. Had God sent Israel a deliverer? Was this Jesus going to free them from Rome? Let the revolution begin!
But Jesus wasn’t going to play their game. He withdrew from the Jews when they tried to make him their king (John 6:15). He told them to pay their taxes (Matthew 22:17–21). He told them not to resist their oppressors (Matthew 5:39). He even told them to deliberately go out of their way to help Roman soldiers (Matthew 5:41). Worst of all, Jesus told them they had to actually love their enemies—including the Romans—or they could not be considered sons of God (Matthew 5:44–45).
The apostles gave exactly the same message. In particular, Paul made our appropriate response to authorities perfectly clear:
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except by God, and those that exist are put in place by God. So then, the one who resists authority resists the ordinance which is from God, and those who resist will receive condemnation on themselves." (Romans 13:1–2, LEB)
Don’t forget, when Paul wrote this, he specifically had in mind the corrupt and unjust authority of Rome. If Paul instructed followers of Christ to willingly remain under Roman oppression, it’s obvious how he would have reacted to the colonists’ break from Great Britain.
Let there be no doubt, the American Revolution was first and foremost an act of rebellion against God.
But let’s keep things in perspective. Enjoy the great country we live in—and for the most part, the USA is a great country. But don’t think for a second that this is a “Christian nation” founded on “Christian principles.”
We must reject unreservedly the sort of nationalism that ties the cross of Christ to America’s sword.
Part 2: "Who Are We?"
Part 3: "Why Do People Think I'm A Liberal?"
Part 4: "Still Embracing Constantine?"