September 23, 2010 by C.J. Mahaney
As the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, my friend Mark Dever is no stranger to this question. It is a topic I have sought his wisdom on at many points over the years, and it’s a question he addressed directly in his sermon this past weekend: “Jesus Paid Taxes” (Mark 12:13-17).
Mark began the message with a statement made one day by a Muslim friend: "That's the problem with Christianity: you have no vision for the state or for society as a whole."
Mark concluded his message with these words:
Does Christianity have a vision for the state or the society as a whole, or is Christianity—as my Muslim friend implied—so heavenly minded that it's of no earthly good?
I think visions like the one my friend had for the state are way too shallow. They're about swords and external conformity to laws. Jesus Christ comes to do something much deeper than any social revolutionary has ever been able to do. He's come to actually change our hearts, to change our natures. The Bible shows us that God has a wonderful vision for his world. We’ve all rejected that vision. And yet even after that rejection, God, in his amazing mercy and love, continues to pursue us. Jesus Christ, his own son, stood there teaching the very people that would in a few days' time seek his life, arrest him, beat him, have him put to death.
I know there are Marxist and Muslim utopian visions for our world. There are secular visions, too. But none of these visions sufficiently take into account the things the Bible teaches about the sinfulness of humans, about our being made in God's image, about God's goodness, his love, his holiness. Utopian visions of politics or nations or the state always lead to tragedy. They always lead to tyranny and despotism and terrible distortions of God's will.
Friends, it is the truth of Christianity, about God being holy and loving, and our being made in God's image, and yet fallen, and God's provisions and promises for us in Christ—it is all of these truths together that lead us to sufficiently respect the fallen governments of the world, and yet give us hope to endure them, and to work and hope for something infinitely better. So God gives us the peace that comes with such hope and the strength to get up another day, to continue following Jesus until he brings us home.
You can read Collin Hansen’s written summary of the message here and you can listen to the mp3 here.
According to Hansen, Thabiti Anyabwile described the sermon as “a biblical theology of Christians and the state, at once full of unction, intellectually challenging, and affecting the heart. I’ve heard a lot of Mark’s preaching, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him better.”