I will never forget the sounds and the sight of the young people as they shouted from the hill near the sidewalk leading into the Republican Party of Texas State Convention in Dallas several years ago. The hollering came from seven or eight twenty-something year olds carrying signs that reiterated what they were screaming.
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesars!” one of the young people yelled as Republicans who were attending an early prayer rally walked by.
Placards with political rhetoric and young people yelling at delegates to the convention all expressed their idea that it everyone's Christian duty to avoid participating in democracy? These young people are relying on a snap shot of history and a snapshot of God’s Word when they mention the scripture about Caesar.
Christians should “render” for sure. But their “rendering” in the representative democracy we live under in the United States is a rendering of participation. They should be involved rather than march in protest against those who participate. Not one person in the prayer rally that morning indicated that they were looking for politics to save their soul, but they were reticent about standing up and be counted and making a difference in the direction taken by their family, their city, their county, their state, and their country.
Christians should be involved in choosing good leaders and forming good policies. Christians should pay their taxes ( re: render unto Caesar the coin with his image on it) and follow all laws that do not conflict with God’s law. If in Jesus days on earth, Caesar was up for election then Christians may have “rendered” their support in such a way he was voted out of office. Who knows? God has not changed but the times we live in require us to apply his unchanging Truth to today’s life. In the United States, we can remove bad leaders and be doing God’s will. (That doesn’t mean they will be replaced by perfect leaders however.) We should participate – even when both candidates are good or both are bad. To argue otherwise is to argue that Washington, Adams, and Jefferson have sat on the sidelines and trusted God didn’t want their participation.
So what does the Bible say about bad pastors? Or are all pastors to be dealt with by God and God alone?
While this is definitely not the same as just electing a new leader, it is an important question to consider. Some pastors will tell you that they are not chosen by people and people can not simply “unchoose” them. I agree, but we all should also know that some people who are not called by God to be pastors ….. well they call themselves.
Make no mistake about it. The Bible never calls Christians to remain loyal to corrupt leaders or corrupt pastors. In fact, the Bible clearly forbids churches from clinging to such pastors. 1 Timothy 5:20 says “As for those [pastors] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” There are precious few congregations willing to obey this biblical command. Can you imagine a local church publicly reprimanding a corrupt pastor by bringing him before the congregation?
In some cases, this is exactly what God’s word calls us to do. But for you haters out there, our passage is not endorsing a “witch hunt”. There are some bitter people who would like nothing more than to see a pastor fall. God will not be mocked and there is no place for pettiness and hatred and backbiting in the church. While many mistakes or perceived imperfections about a pastor should simply be forgiven, it is also true that churches can not afford simply to look the other way on any and all behavior. But the "crime must fit the punishment".
Scripture recognizes our sinful tendency to let bad leaders off the hook. Therefore, 1 Timothy 5:21 insists that even pastors should receive no special favors when it comes to sin. It says “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” Even pastors aren’t above God’s law– Churches dishonor the Lord himself by acting as if they are. In the case of suspected gross pastoral sin, the Bible insists on:
1) an unbiased investigation and evaluation of the facts and;
2) public rebuke (a serious reprimand which may include removal from office or even disfellowship) if they are found to be guilty.
I know this sounds unreasonably harsh to some. But apparently the Lord takes pastoral integrity very seriously (see1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9). So should we. Pastors have a unique potential both to promote spiritual benefit and harm among God’s people. How much physical, psychological, and spiritual devastation might have been avoided had local congregations simply obeyed the Bible’s clear direction in this area?