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Separation of Church and State

Living as Citizens of Two Commonwealths

Matthew 22:15-21

Criticism of those who lead or those who direct the affairs of state are an ingrained part of contemporary American life: especially during a presidential election year.

Whether you’re “for” or “against,” Democrat, Republican, or other, God has provided some guidelines for Christian responsibility within the context of state affairs. In these verses from Matthew you find laid down the basic and eternal principle of the separation of church and state. The wisdom of this position is seen again and again in the pages of history. Baptists through the years have played a leading role in this effort. We can only hope and pray that a majority of Baptists will continue to do so in the future. I believe Baptists are at their best when continuing to maintain that the church can do its most effective work when it is free of entangling alliances with the government. Baptists are at their best when we hold to the conviction that the state can fulfill its functions best when it owes no favor to any church or denomination.

Jesus stated a basic principle of life in this world when he said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” The Christian is a citizen of two commonwealths: the state and the kingdom of God.

From the state we receive protection of life and property, roads, schools, libraries and many other material things which as lone individuals we might not be able to access. In return for all these things we are obligated to the state to pay taxes, obey the laws of the land, render jury service, and risk life and property in the defense of our country

There is no conflict between these duties and those which fall upon us as a people of God in Christ. For the manifold blessings which come to us from God, we are to be loyal to Christ, devoted to the church, dedicated in service, careful with our influence and faithful in the payment of our tithes. In fact, the consistent committed Christian will make the best citizens of our earthly community.

The consistent, committed Christian will also discover that the best ways to change injustice and inequities in the state are through prayer and through practice of the abiding convictions which shape and guide our daily lives.

. . . the temptation to self-interest and secular power is no less a danger to organized religion than to any other organized sector of American life. (James E. Wood, Jr.)