The Cost of Conscience

A recent study of Luke's Gospel by Father Richard Cassidy, Jesus, Politics and Society, asks the question: Was Jesus dangerous to the Roman empire? Cassidy concludes that Jesus did pose a threat to Roman rule. It was not the threat of a rebellious political zealot, but Jesus' words and actions were nonetheless threatening. Nonviolence coupled with love for all, including enemies, yields a reaction.

Jesus rejected the use of violence, criticizing the gentile kings for dominating their subjects. And he "refused to defer to or cooperate with the various political officials who were responsible for maintaining these patterns." Cassidy continues by responding to the question concerning the payment of tribute: "Jesus took the position that the Roman Emperor and the Empire were not to be accorded an autonomous or privileged position within the order of creation; they were rather to be evaluated on the basis of how closely they corresponded to the patterns desired by God."

There is no question that, in a religiously nonviolent way, Jesus resisted secular authority while at the same time witnessing to God's will that we love our enemies. Jesus' nonviolent posture and teaching clearly answered the question of whether Caesar may call upon Christians to kill their enemies or plan to kill their enemies by paying for it with their tax dollars.

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