By Jason Hines -
In Luke chapter 20, Jesus recounts an interesting parable. In it a man plants a vineyard and rents it out to husbandmen before going on a long journey. At the time of harvest he sends servants to collect from the husbandmen. Instead of giving the landlord what is rightfully his, they beat the servant and send him back. Each servant who comes to collect is beaten. Finally, the man sends his son, thinking that they will treat the son with respect. They do just the opposite and kill the son of the man.
The application for the original hearers of the parable is clear. The man were God, the husbandmen were those religious and political leaders of Israel throughout history who perverted the goal of Israel as God’s chosen people, the servants were the prophets and the son was Christ. Instead of giving God His due, those misguided spiritual and political leaders attempted to steal the vineyard (the nation) from him and appropriate it for their own corrupt purposes. There is a modern application that I think applies to the subject of religious liberty. I have always found it interesting that Christ’s most pointed critiques fell not on the lowest of the low morally, but instead to the people and leaders of the church. I think that today, as then, there are people who claim to be in league with God but are actually robbing Him of His church and leading people astray. And just as the husbandmen of the parable, they are willing to kill Christ to do it.
But how do you kill Christ? An examination of how it actually happened in the Bible reveals an interesting answer.Matthew 27: 1, 2 describes the process. Christ is first condemned to death by a religious tribunal. He is then sent to the state to have this religious determination ratified and executed. This is the essence of a union of church and state. The church had the moral authority but not the tangible power to condemn Christ to death, and so they turn to the state to legitimize their moral proclamation. We see the same thing happening today. Whether it is moral proclamations on abortion or gay marriage, or the desire to receive government funding for their Christian ministries, there are those among the Christians in this country who are seeking secular authority for their religious proclamations – as the Pharisees did to Christ.
How can we be different? How can we not be like the husbandmen in the parable? How can we keep ourselves from robbing God of His movement, His church? I wish I had a more definitive answer. But the answer I know is the answer we have known all along. We need to have more genuine faith. I believe in the power of God to change lives, without the criminal pressure of government. I believe in the power of God to provide for the ministries of His people, without them having to tie themselves to government. I believe in a God that can do what seems to be impossible to the human mind and the human heart. I believe that if we fully submit to the will of God and if we are willing to trust Him in all things, that we can spark a change in people that can affect the entire world. That is all that faith is and all that it has ever been – the strength to believe.