Jesus’ admonition, “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” is not a statement about being a good citizen. The question it demands that the hearer ask and answer truthfully is this one: “What belongs to Caesar, or to me, or to anyone else, that does not belong to God?” Does the land at a certain latitude and longitude—and named by some human being Costa Rica, the United States, or Angola— belong to Caesar? Does the universe? Does my breath, my body, my mind, my will, my life?
Taken in its context, the statement is not intended to suggest (much less create) a division of ownership of reality between the Creator of the universe and a creature that the Creator has brought out of nothingness into time and space. Still less is it meant to suggest that something might belong to some political thug—which is what all Caesars are—that does not belong to God.
Jesus says that the great commandment is “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, with your whole mind, and with your whole strength.” So if you render to God what is due to God, that is, your whole being, self, heart, soul, mind, body, spirit and will, you will have nothing left to render to Caesar. We believe that Jesus is God. God says, “Love your enemies.” Caesar says, “Kill your enemies.” If you are rendering to God what is due to God, that is, if you are following the will of God as revealed by God Himself, Jesus, then you will have nothing available with which to kill Caesar’s enemies when Caesar demands that you render him that service. You will have used everything up—your whole heart, soul, mind, body, life, etc.—rendering to God what is due to God, in total obedience to His command: “Love your enemies.”
It follows automatically that you must likewise follow Christ-God’s other commands: “Do good to those that hate you.” “Put up your sword.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Follow me.” There can be nothing left to render to Caesar if what belongs to God—namely, the whole human being—is rendered to God. Jesus, God incarnate, calls no one to part-time discipleship, or to anything less than fidelity and love with one’s whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The old pagan adage, “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (If you want peace, prepare for war) is the principle of morality and marketing on which the annual multi-trillion dollar arms industry justifies itself and thrives. The weapons’ manufacturers employ this principle because it is the principle around which nation-states, with their big and little Caesars, organize their security and peace.
The principle is basically an expression or manifestation of fear, more specifically, fear of enemies of some kind, backed up by the willingness to destroy those who are feared. It is also what is behind the deception of calling militaries—trained, able, and willing to kill human beings by the hundreds or thousands or millions— “peacekeeping forces.” Or naming a missile “The Peacekeeper.” When, 160 years ago, Samuel Colt said of his new pistol, the Colt .45, “The good people in this world are very far from being satisfied with each other and my arms are the best peacemaker,” he was merely paraphrasing si vis pacem, para bellum—as well as specifically contradicting Jesus, who commanded his followers, “Put up your sword.”
“Si vis pacem, para bellum”—If you want peace, prepare for war— is self-evidently not the teaching of Jesus. Indeed, it directly contradicts the teaching of Jesus about the Way of peace and the will of the Father, which is to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, it is not an understanding of the true and the good that a follower of Jesus can follow, or support, without parting company with Christ-God and His Way.
So, what are ROTC programs on Christian university and high school campuses other than a statement of belief in, and support of, Si vis pacem, para bellum? What are they but an explicit denial of the teaching of Jesus, God incarnate, about the Way and Will of God that leads to peace? What are they but a false witness, written in neon for the world to see?
“Si vis pacem, para bellum:” “If you want peace prepare to slaughter large numbers of human beings.”Ninety-five percent of Christians, Christian churches, and Christian mothers and fathers in the world believe and teach their children that this is a faithful way of following Jesus. They will deceitfully pound—or allow to be pounded—into the brains of their children that this is rendering to Caesar what is due to Caesar, while never telling them that it is at the same time a refusal to render to God what is due to God, namely, one’s whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, whole strength—love and fidelity to the will of one’s Creator, one’s God, Jesus.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” teaches Christ-God. What Christian ROTC programs, Christian churches, and Christian parents are doing—by hardwiring Christian children into si vis pacem, para bellum as Gospel truth, or as truth logically consistent with Gospel truth (“Love your enemies.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Put up your sword.”)—Is evil. It is the evil of child abuse, leading the little ones astray so that they even enjoy the fruits of that evil, long before they could ever possibly see the gross contradiction between “si vis pacem, para bellum” and “Love your enemies.”
As you observe the full-throttle efforts currently being made by church leaders to militarize and nationalize the church and its children, you might consider it important to inform your bishop, priest, minister, pastor, and fellow communicants, of the ineradicable contradiction between the god of “si vis pacem, para bellum” and the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels, who teaches by word and deed a Way of Nonviolent love of friends and enemies. You might also remind them of the moral impossibility of serving two masters who make intrinsically contradictory demands on one’s heart, soul, mind and strength. “You will love one and hate the other” (Mt 6:24, Lk 16:13).
Finally in the hope of saving lives and saving souls you might point out to your Church’s ministers and members that their emotional relationship to Jesus, even if it is euphoric and reaches the ninth degree of mysticism, is of little eternal significance for self or others if they are not going to follow, that is order their lives according to, His teaching, His commandments, His truth, His Way. Consider these few words from the Word of God incarnate:
If you love me you will keep my commandments (Jn 14:15).
Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he or she is the one who loves me (Jn 14:21).
If anyone loves me, he or she will obey my teaching (Jn 14:23).
We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands (1 Jn 2:3).
This is love for God: to obey His commands (1 Jn 5:3).
And this is love, that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love (2 Jn 1:6).
It is not those who say, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (Mt 7: 21).
“Love your enemies.” “Put up your sword.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” These are the commands of Jesus. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” is not—and it is logically incompatible with Jesus’ commands. There is simply no way to love Jesus—Christ-God—by following this principle, nor is there any way to render to God what is due to God by ordering one’s Christian life or one’s Christian Community’s life to this principle.