Musings Of A Spiritual Atheist
Christian Obedience

And the LORD god said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:”

The Bible quotation from Genesis chapter 3, verse 22 above, records what god said to unidentified persons in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the forbidden tree. The tree was "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil", and eating was forbidden because god did not want the couple to have that ability. This bible quotation does show us, though, that there were already others who had that ability, as god says, "The man has now become like one of us". “Us” not “me”, plural not singular. Who these others were is not recorded, although most churches would probably argue that it was the personage referred to as the Word in the gospel of John, and perhaps some angels.

Adam and Eve did eat the fruit of that tree, however, and so did get the ability to tell good from evil as a consequence. In that sense Adam and Eve were like god and could decide what was good and acceptable and what was evil and must be rejected. Today, we also have that ability. Humans, according to the god of the bible, are quite capable of telling right from wrong without being told.

Now I know that many Christians don't like this and would prefer to tell us what evil sinners we are and how we must rely on gods to direct our lives, but according to this scripture we don't need those people to explain it to us. God, the Sovereign Lord of all creation, has already told us we are quite capable of deciding good from evil all by ourselves. In fact, we are like Him in that regard, he said.

If we decide that homosexual relations are acceptable, then that is what they are. We know this because god has said we are able to make that decision. Perhaps this is the reason he did not want us to have the ability because our decisions as to what is good or evil might not agree with his. Note, though, that even if they do not, they are still valid because we do have the ability, provided by god himself as an "ingredient", appropriately enough, in a piece of a fruit.

That was the trade off. Humanity had to give up living forever but we got the ability to make our own decisions. That is actually a constant theme found throughout the Bible: the ability to choose one's own course of action. The Bible is very clearly pro-choice from beginning to end, and those who would remove the ability of mankind to exercise that choice can only be described as enemies of god, who has made it abundantly clear that he wants voluntary service freely chosen, not forced and resentful acquiescence. It is recorded in the book of Joshua that even the nation of Israel was given this choice. The Context group version expresses it as, “And if it seems evil to you to serve YHWH, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell:” How much clearer can it be. It must be a free choice, not compelled.

This theme of free will and establishing our own laws is mentioned in other places, one of them directly by Jesus himself. Please keep in mind that Jesus is god the Son, the second personality of the Trinity, a manifestation of god the Father himself and a co-equal component of the godhead. Any commands by Jesus are therefore commands from the supreme Creator of the Universe, and any person who counsels in any way differently than Jesus counselled is opposing god himself. I make this point because it appears that many religious leaders are doing just that. They are in danger of becoming "opposers" of god, a term that reflects the title given to the Great Opposer, Satan.

The reference Jesus made that endorsed free will was when a religious leader of His day asked him about paying taxes. He said at Matthew 22:17, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto god the things that are god's.”

This statement makes it clear that Jesus saw the state as separate from religion, and that the two could have clearly different aims. "Caesar" represented the political component of society, the governments and national states. Jesus was bluntly saying that the interests of the state were not his interests nor the interests of those who would worship him. His worship was not an intimate component of the state.

Taxation is one of the things that differ between Jesus and the State, so I know that all Christians are extremely conscientious about paying their taxes without complaint or quibble because god has ordered them to do so. I must say, however, in light of what Jesus said about paying taxes to Caesar, that I find it very perplexing that so many religions have tax exempt status. It would appear to me that any Christian religion failing to pay taxes would be contradicting the orders of their god and are keeping for themselves what Jesus said should be given to Caesar. I would presume that god doesn't need the money since he owns the whole universe, so I wonder why their faith is so limited in obeying what he has commanded.

However, that aside, Jesus' statement makes it clear that religion and politics are different things with no connection. That they own different things. That they are entitled to different things. That they can demand different things. This was explicitly noted by James, Jesus' sibling, who said in James 4:4, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with god? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of god.”

Christians owe their spiritual commitment to god, but engaging in political activity to promote god‘s interests is to become the World's friend, the Nation's conscience, the Politician's spiritual guide. Jesus made it clear that the Nation, the World, Politicians are owed different things than Him. His aims are different than theirs. By attempting to get politicians to legislate in spiritual matters, Christian leaders are giving to Caesar what is owed to god, and in the process are making themselves adulterers in a spiritual or religious sense.

I am not suggesting that Christians should avoid taking part in politics. Jesus said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and voting or running for political office are things that Caesar owns. By all means give those things back to society, but leave your service to god in god's hands. However, decisions taken by politicians should reflect the best interests of the country as a whole, not the interests of an individual's private religious beliefs. Adherence to the principles of our society, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights are two of the things that belong to "Caesar", and Christian politicians are obligated to adhere to them in their entirety if they wish to be faithful to the commands of god.

This underlying principle that Christians must adhere to the laws of the country in which they live was very strongly emphasised by the Apostle Paul, who called national governments the "higher powers". It is found in Romans 13:1-4:–

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of god: the powers that be are ordained of god. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of god: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of god to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of god, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Not only are Christians to obey the law of the country they live in, we are to understand that god gave the countries the power to enact laws, and that resisting those laws is the same as resisting the power of god. In fact, Paul comments that governments are "the minister of god" and all Christians must obey their laws. Jesus himself set the example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers came to arrest Him. Peter strenuously resisted the arrest, even committing an offence that is now known as “assault with a deadly weapon” or “assault causing grievous bodily harm” when he cut off a servant's ear. For his trouble, Peter was bluntly reprimanded by Jesus who made it clear that he was going to submit to the will of Caesar as it was what god, i.e. He himself, Jesus, wanted. The account is recorded in a few places, but John 18:10-12 has the salient points. It says, “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him.”

The point is that personally submitting to god's will should be more important for Christians than forcing others to behave a certain way. Like it or not, when the Government of Canada changes marriage laws to recognise same sex marriages Christians must accept and submit to the new law. When it makes that change the Government is exercising the power given to it by god. All Canadians, including Christians, must accept the law. They must accept that same sex marriages are now legal and recognise them as valid. That is what Paul's comments mean. Whether people like it or not is completely irrelevant, god says it is required. To paraphrase, “The cup god has given us, shall we not drink it?”

However, it goes a lot further than that. The Canadian Bill of Rights, one of our fundamental laws, says that discrimination on certain grounds must not take place. One of those grounds is sexual orientation. Not discriminating means more than holding our nose and keeping our mouth shut. Minimalist acquiescence is not the same as being in subjection and obedience to the law. We may only hold our nose and keep our mouth shut if that is what we do for our own personal friends' marriages. We may not discriminate! No exceptions! We may not treat a friend's marriage differently than a homosexual couple's marriage. If we are happy for our friends and show it, then we must do the same for a lesbian couple who are married. That is what obeying the law means, and we must obey the law if we are a Christian. If we do not, then we are rejecting god's instruction to be in subjection to the higher powers, and running the risk that god may reject us. The first book of Samuel puts it this way in Chapter 15, verse 22:–

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

This makes it abundantly clear that god wants us to do what he wishes, not to go out of our way to help him carry out his will by ignoring his express instructions to be in subjection to the governments, to Caesar. He is quite capable of causing events to unfold the way he wants, and he does not need nor require our assistance to do so. Obedience to his will as he has caused it to be written down is a better way to serve him than to make a sacrifice of forcing Canadians of whom we do not approve to be humiliated.

Does this mean that the state may instruct you to disobey god, and you must do as they say. No, because your service to god is owed to him and must be given to him. That is a personal matter. Your relationship with god is god's business, and you may not give that to the Country. You must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but you must also give to god what belongs to god. As an example, you do not have to conduct a same sex marriage in your place of worship if you are opposed to it, because that is part of your obligation to god, but you must treat a married, homosexual couple the same way as a married, heterosexual couple because the government has said they are the same. You must not discriminate, you must be obedient to god and obey Caesar's law.

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