“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” Luke 2:1
Jesus was born and grew up in Judea, a Roman Province, which was occupied to keep the Peace of Rome and to exact taxes from the Jews.
We have no recent experience with rule by a foreign power. The closest history was Reconstruction, after 1865, when the conquered South was occupied by Federal forces. The resentment felt here was toxic.
In describing Jesus’ Advent, Luke was aware of the tension between the Roman Empire and what Christians saw as the Kingdom of God. He wanted to describe Jesus’ life as the saving of Romans and all people, and no threat to the power of Rome.
The family of Jesus is shown to be obedient to the census which Caesar Augustus ordered taken, even if it was the purpose of raising taxes. It is clear that he was taught good citizenry; his later kindness to Zachariah, the tax collector, and to the Roman Centurian, whom he advised not to be a bully, show his fairness in the face of the occupation.
We live today “occupied” by different controlling forces: one, terrorism; another, violent crime. In facing these realities, our society still relies on physical power as the solution to oppression by evil. We still forget the first spiritual principle Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God. Seek ye first the Will of the Father.
We need government and order, and the protection of soldiers and police. Christians must be good, law-abiding citizens. It is peculiarly American to stand up for individual sovereignty, and to rely on government to protect our liberties.
Sam Johnson first came to FBC in 1957 and worked with teens in Training Union. After 25 years at Lawndale, an FBC mission, he came back in 1984, and he has learned from these years teaching in Sunday School, serving with the choir and in other posts.