Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s in the context of Nagaland and India

Kaka D Iralu

There are two meanings to the word “Caesar” in the biblical context. The first meaning is in reference to a particular Roman Emperor in Jesus’ times. The second meaning is in the context of the civil government (or authority) that God himself has instituted in human societies for the administration of God’s rule in human political affairs. When Jesus replied the Pharisees’ question in Mathew 22:21 and said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s;” he was referring to Caesar Tiberius the Roman Emperor who ruled Rome from AD 14-AD37. But at the same time, Jesus was also referring to the civil government of Rome that had been established by God’s sanction. (For details of the establishment of such governments by God’s sanction, refer to Romans chapter 13:1-7).

But before going any further let us begin by what Jesus did not say that day. This is felt necessary because many Christians have added their own interpretations to what Jesus did not say at all. 1. Jesus did not say: “Do not pay your taxes to Caesar.” 2. Jesus also did not say “Reconcile with Caesar and merge into Caesar’s government. Now having stated what Jesus did not say, let us examine what Jesus did say. Jesus indeed said: “Render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s and unto God, the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21.)

With regards to this clear statement of Jesus, what are Naga Christians supposed to do with reference to the government of India which is in Nagaland today. I believe all Nagas are obeying Jesus in paying our taxes to the occupational government in our land. We are all paying taxes in the form of our electricity bills, our vehicle and road taxes etc.

But here again, we must remember that the Indian government in our land today is not here out of benevolence for our benefit and prosperity. Far from it, this Indian government is a colonial government just like the Roman colonial government in Palestine in Jesus’ days. Such colonial governments always rules by the power of military might through acts like the Disturbed Area Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act etc. In a similar manner, the British colonial power also ruled India through many oppressive Acts. Tragically for Nagas, India, after getting her independence from the British, just simply copied those suppression acts and applied it to Nagas to rule over Nagaland. Another fact that also must be noted is that during the British rule in India, there never were any democratic elections in India. After all no colonial power would ever give a chance to those they are ruling to vote them out of power through a fair democratic election! To India’s honour, no Indian political organization ever gave their collaboration to the British to rule over them in any legitimate manner. But in the case of Nagas, though the whole Naga nation had refused to participate in the Indian general elections for two consecutive terms (1952-1957), to our shame, some Naga rebels brought an Indian election into our midst in 1963. As a result, today, this Indian government has become the CAESAR of Nagaland. It is also appalling to see that some Nagas (Including some national workers) are desperately trying to merge with this Indian government in our land. In all these nefarious activities, many Nagas are doing many things that Jesus never told us to do. As to how we can remove this CAESAR from our lands in a non-violent manner, I have already shared my suggestions in an article on April 5, 2019 and so will not repeat myself here again.

But in conclusion, I wish to reiterate that Christianity is not a mythological religion hanging in thin air or in the imagination of some believers. Jesus, the cornerstone (Ep. 2:20-21) and founder of Christianity was not born in the air and floated back to heaven 2000 years ago. The fact is; Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus and crucified during the reign of Caesar Tiberius (Between AD 1 to AD 38). He was really sentenced to be crucified in the court of Pontius Pilate during Herod’s reign in Palestine. All these facts are recorded in the Bible like in Luke 2:1-3 etc. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and really walked the dusty streets of Palestine. During his life on earth, he was hungry, thirsty, angry, wept and was finally hung on Golgotha in a wooden cross. These records were stated both by the Apostles and secular historians like Josephus. And after his resurrection, he commissioned his followers to go into the entire world to preach and practice his gospel of spiritual, political and economic salvation (liberty) from the hands of those who oppress us. Here, how one wish that someone else can go out into the world and practice our Christian beliefs and obligations on our behalves while we can stay away in our own comfort zones. But such a wish is no different from wishing that Jesus had never entered into human history but had simply lived in heaven and acted from there only. As for me, the moment I pick up my own cross to follow Jesus, I am not confronted by some heavenly problems. I am instead, confronted and overwhelmed by spiritual as well as earthly problems that are political, economic and social in nature. But I do realize that it is precisely into this world (and not heaven) that I have been sent to practice my Christianity.