“We Proclaim the Wisdom”
October 18, 2020
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
Jesus continues to teach us from the gospel about giving of ourselves wholly to our God that He is to suppose to be number one in our lives. We worship Him and we value Him more than anything.
Israel was under oppression from Rome and because of this, they were forced to pay taxes. The Jews, for centuries, wanted a deliverer from this situation because they were tired of it. They knew that they were supposed to be the head, not the tail. They were supposed to be ruling, not trampled under. The Jews knew that as children of God, created in His image and likeness, God owns them and they belong to God. The Jews also knew that the coin, the image of the emperor, was idolatrous because only God was to be worshipped and only God is to be given such honor.
Jesus was asking the Jews, “Are you seriously wanting Me to talk about this idolatrous denarius when what our concern should be is about giving God that bears His image?” We bear God’s image, and if we bear His image, we are to give to Him what belongs to Him. This is Jesus’ point. It is our whole self. Before we worry about taxes, we are to give what is due to God and what is His.
Jesus came to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. It is not of this world. He came to do this not to settle political disputes whose root and motivations are opposed to His kingdom. It is not about power, self-centeredness and enriching oneself. These are what the kingdoms of this world are built on. The reason that Jesus did this was so that the kingdoms of this world would become like His kingdom.
Some Christians believe in the two kingdoms theology which is: to be citizens of the kingdom of God and to be citizens of our nations. This is true, but it is abused. We have no dual citizenship. We have a singular citizenship. We obey the rules and the laws of the land that we live, but our allegiance is only to one King. We have no King but Jesus that is in stark opposition to what the Jews said, “We have no king but Caesar,” meaning, “We have no king but the world.”
We have no king but Jesus. The following Scriptures state that we only have one Lord:
· Ephesian 4:4-6 , “There is …one Lord…one God and Father of all.”
· 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, “For us there is but one God, one Father for Whom we live, and one Lord.”
· Matthew 4:10, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” We are to serve God with absolute single-heartedness.”
· Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13, “No one can serve two masters.”
· James 4:8, "Purify your hearts you double-minded.”
Philippians 3:20 says that our citizenship (singular) is in heaven. Therefore, we walk in a manner worthy of the Kingdom and its character and nature. We are kingdom citizens and we should not deny what we are in this Kingdom and we are to walk accordingly. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us that we are foreigners to the world’s ways, which is why 1Peter 2:9 says that we are peculiar. We follow the ways of God in a world that doesn’t. By us displaying the excellencies of God, the King, they would follow these ways.
We are in this world but not of it. In the Bible, there are two definitions of the “world”. In John 3:16, “For God so loved the world,” mean God’s creation, the cosmos. Another meaning of the world is the fallen simple world system synonymous to Caesar which is enriching us. The kingdom of God is the opposite – we give of ourselves to enrich others because this is the way we enrich ourselves, the way of God. We are still inheritors of this earth. The humble and the meek will inherit the new earth, the new heaven, the new world, meaning we are cleansed from the system of the world. We are participants in heaven’s agenda of colonizing the earth. The Kingdom is coming here to conquer it to make it follow its rules and its ways.
In the first century, when the early Christians say “We believe in one Lord”, actually it had a whole different meaning than how we understand it now. Jesus is Lord means Caesar is not lord. They put their neck on the line because they will be executed and they will be sentenced to death because it is a subversive, seditious, rebellious claim. To the Roman Empire and its citizens, there is only one lord – Caesar. When they say Jesus is Lord, then, they are criminals and rebellious. They believed that Caesar is the bringer of peace and the savior of the world. His birth and reign were understood to be the good news. The word “euangelion” meaning good news was not originally Christian but Roman. To the world then, they were made to believe that Caesar was the answer to all their problems, which was the good news. The Christians restored this and made it to mean the true meaning – that Jesus is Lord and He is the true bringer of peace and true Savior of the world.
The Roman emperor’s governance was hailed as the best, the wise, and the answer to world’s needs and the emperor was the deliverer. Christians would say that Jesus is Lord and His ways are that which work and actually bring peace. The Roman peace was achieved by intimidation. In the kingdom of God, perfect love casts out all fears and this brings peace. They might be peace because nobody dared to take arms against the Roman government, but in their hearts they are angry with the government.
When we say Jesus is Lord, we value and we worship Jesus’s ways. It is not matter of changing statues, mantras or language to sound religious and Christians. It means we reject Caesar’s ways, the ways of the world and we value Jesus Christ’s ways. Peace, fulfillment and joy are brought about by ways of the kingdom of God. We believe in the forgiveness of offenders, indiscriminate love, kindness to haters, praying for those who persecute us, and being generous to those who don’t deserve our generosity. These ways are what works and that which will bring peace.
The Jews thought that this Messiah wants them to love their oppressors and to them it was nonsense. St. Paul said that to those who were perishing, the message of the Cross which is to give one’s life for others is foolishness but to us who are being saved, it is the wisdom and the power of God. To many, even today, even to Christians, the way of the Cross is radical, insane, ridiculous and nonsense. Caesar (his ways) does need to be overthrown, because the kingdoms of this world are supposed to be the kingdom of our God. We do it not by the sword but by the ways of the Kingdom.
Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in name of our Lord.” It is not the name as a formula but what it represents. Saying the name of Lord is not “In Jesus name” that is magical, but walking in His ways. Some Christians still believe that violence, capital punishment rr the sword is the answer. Some believe in the traces of the crusaders before, that is, in order to establish the kingdom of God on earth, those who believed in God should be killed. No, we kill the ideology, the sinful nature but we preserve and we restore the creation of God. Some Christians still believe that true manhood is about being strong, about fistfights and some want to hurt others physically. This is not the way of the kingdom of God.
To us, the Cross is wisdom and power of God that conquer principalities. This is how Jesus did it and this is how we reign with Him. We give to God what is due Him – our whole mind, heart, and our obedience to His ways. We are to repent which means turning from following Caesar – the world’s ways - and actually following Jesus Christ. It is turning 180 degrees from following domination and intimidation and now giving one’s life for the sake of others.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, St. Paul said to turn from idols – what is trending in the world (the culture) and serve the living and the true God. Maybe if we did, we won’t be under oppression of Caesar in the first place. If we sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all the other things that we worry about will be added to us. Could it be that if we don’t seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, these other things are subtracted from us?
We are to be single minded and wholly worshipping God. Psalm 16:4 says that the sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied. Therefore, we proclaim the wisdom of the true God and His ways until all will come to the chief of the mountains of God and they would ask them to teach them of His ways. The world ways won’t work; our ways do. We proclaim the wisdom of God and His ways until all creation lives and learns His joy, justice, love and praise because this is the way it is in the kingdom of God.