Pastor’s Corner — October 22, 2023

Matthew 22:15-22

When our family immigrated to the USA from South Korea, as a child one of the first lessons I learned in school was to pledge allegiance to the American flag. I placed my right hand over my heart and looked at the flag and recited something at the time gibberish which I learned later the meaning behind my second language. However, as years passed, I learned to “assimilate”, or I should say navigate and become “Americanized.” Pledging allegiance every day at school didn’t feel strange to me anymore. I became a US citizen and again recited the pledge, paid taxes, tried to be a law-abiding citizen, and participated in civic services. Now I hear Jesus’ words, “Give therefore to the emperor things that are the emperors.” 

President Joe Biden, who I voted for, who leads the largest military and economic power in the world, just made a visit to Israel in support of ongoing genocide and status quo apartheid against Palestinians. In Biden’s return speech last night, he synonymously used Israel and Ukraine together, to sell to the American public that it is our moral imperative to support Israel’s “right to self-defense,” when clearly Israel is more like Russia claiming Ukraine as their historic land to occupy. How is it possible to support Israel’s decades of violent occupation and oppression of Palestinians? Historically, we know, Israel was an extension of colonialism of European power led by the US, also known as Zionism. We need to secure our empire interests (such as geopolitical influence- mainly oil and according to Christian Zionist the second coming of Jesus from the Holy Land that requires the return of Jewish diaspora!).

When Jesus was questioned whether one should pay tax to the emperor or not as a trap, Jesus said, “Show me the coin used for the tax.” and they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “whose head/image is this? and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s” 

“Give therefore to the emperor things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s”

The tax dollars we give will support our American empire and military aid that will be used to violently suppress Gaza. We live in a system where we may feel powerless to do anything about it. But Jesus reminds us that to render to God what belongs to God is to say that we are all created in God’s image and only God can create a new life and transform us. I want to be clear as a follower of Christ, my ultimate loyalty is not to a state or a nation but to God whose mercy never ends and desires for all people to be fully alive as human beings! 

In times like these, when asked in public events to pledge allegiance to America for “liberty and justice for all,” I will abstain from it as a protest. I’ve learned over the years that nationalism is dangerous and exclusive. It is not the same thing as patriotism, a love for the country you live in. 

Please join us this Sunday in worship as we continue to expand and deepen our understanding of hospitality and belonging not only for our faith community but beyond to the globe community and in Palestine. There is hope. Jesus lived under the occupation of the Roman Empire. His message, the gospel, speaks to us today. 

Pastor Dae