Jesus, Caesar, and #metoo

1017-ctm-metoosocialmedia-duncan-1421387-640x360The #metoo movement invaded my social media news feed this last week, and I am grateful for it.

As Rhonda and I spoke about it, we literally could not think of a single female (not just woman, any female) in our lives who couldn’t have said “me too” when confronted with the reality of sexual harassment.

“Oh, you were harassed sexually?  Me too…” is the reply given by all the women in my life.

And maybe you, too.  

Guys: are we listening?

This week’s Gospel reading made me reflect a bit on how our faith plays into the way we treat things, especially other bodies.  We’re kicking off our stewardship campaign this Sunday, and so the pull of the calendar tells me to preach on the stewardship of money.

But I can’t, because the calendar of our lives compels me to preach on how the Gospel speaks to how steward our attitudes and our treatment of other people’s bodies.

The Gospel lesson for this week, by the way, is Matthew 22:15-22.  Go ahead and take a gander before moving on, or the rest of this won’t make much sense (just click here to read it).

Done?  Good; onward…

So there are a couple of odd things about this passage.

First, for all you Star Wars fans out there, is that you cannot read or hear this passage without wanting to yell Admiral Ackbar’s, “It’s a trap!” because the Pharisees “set out to trap” Jesus.Atrapitis

But even more interesting is the fact that it appears a Roman coin was not difficult for Jesus to get in hand at the moment, which probably meant that one of those gathered there was carrying one around, which for an ancient Jewish person was a big faux pas.  The coins of the Roman world were, by some strict Jewish laws, considered to be graven images, especially because the Emperor was supposed to be “divine” for the “good Roman” and Caesar’s image was on the coin.

Perhaps Jesus, in asking for a coin, was really asking for one of them to admit that they were breaking the first commandment given on Sinai.  Remember it?  That “I am the Lord your God” commandment?  For ancient Jewish persons, that meant you couldn’t carry around any other god-like graven images…including those pesky Roman coins that they had to deal with (which is why the money changers in the temple took those coins and changed them into the local currency…it all makes sense now, right?).

But, so, Jesus has this coin in his hand, with a picture of Caesar on it, and says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

There are many and various thoughts about what he meant by this, but for me, I go back to Genesis and recall that day of creation when images like Caesar were gathered up from the dust of the ground and infused with the breath of life.

Maybe Jesus is being ironic.  Because, although it was Caesar’s picture on the coin, for the faithful person it was also the “Imago Dei” there, the very image of God.  Not a god…but the God who created all people throughout all time.

Is the coin really Caesar’s?  Or is everything with a face really God’s because it bears God’s likeness?  And if everything with a face is really God’s because it bears God’s likeness, then how are we to treat everything?

When I looked through my social media feed and saw all the #metoo posts from women admitting they’ve been sexually harassed, I had to be honest that I, in my maleness, have not always treated women as if they were the image of God.  I have sometimes treated women as if they were objects to be ogled.

And that’s not OK.

In believing that I can just treat them any way that I want, I am denying them not only their humanity, but also the imprint of divinity that God has placed upon them.

Women are not here for men; they are not Caesar’s or any of the would-be Caesars of this world who think they control everyone, including other people.

When we treat others in a way that turns them into object and not subject, treating them like a mere image and not the Imago Dei, we are, like those Pharisees, falling into the trap of idolatry…except it’s the trap where we believe that we are gods and we can treat others however we want to.

boyswillbe-ss-black_1024x1024One of my favorite shirts, and one which is on order for my sons, is one that says “Boys will be…” and it crosses out the word “boys” and replaces it with “good humans.”

Jesus was scandalous in that he allowed women into his inner circle.  They were the first persons entrusted with the good news of Jesus resurrection.  They carry the Imago Dei in their very being, and they are God’s.

Give to God what is God’s, and treat those things that way…and give to Caesar what is Caeser’s…

(And here’s the secret in plain sight for those with eyes to see and ears to hear: nothing is Caesar’s)

See you in church, you and all your bright, shining, Imago Dei bearing faces…

 

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