Bob Ripley, had he lived, could have continued his “Believe It or Not” series indefinitely by contacting chaplains for his material. Without any trouble at all we accumulate quite a store of choice items aling this line. A fair sample would be the quaint notion that servicemen come up with every now and then that the Ten Commandments are just for civilians–that by special dispensation such things are suspended for the Armed Forces. The scuttlebutt seems to be that God obligingly changes the rules for you when you change into uniform.
Jesus Christ, of course, had other ideas. He put them across in a text made to order for military — “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Here is the perfect sermonette for servicemen, brief but complete, and familiar to all, but forgotten by many. Forgotten, that is, as to the second half, for there is no complaint that the members of the Armed Forces haven’t sought to serve the nation as they ought–haven’t sought to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” In fact, one must marvel at and admire their zeal in matters military, and the infinite pains taken by officers and men to “go by the book.” Navy Regulations are the gospel which they would no more consider violating than a saint would think of blaspheming. All of which, to be sure, is very commendable–as far as it goes. But, when being “strictly G.I.” is the only virture we care about, when we knock ourselves out rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s but refuse to give God the things that are God’s isn’t this more than a little inconsistent? For all human authorityis based on and derives from Divine Authority. “Let everyone be the subject to the higher authorities, for there exists no authority except from God, and those who exist have been appointed by God.”
Hence, if we join with those who cried, “We have no king but Caesar” we shall winde up without even Caesar for a king, for we shear him of his power when we renounce the King of Kings. It turns out then, that we can’t really [be] patriotic to hilt unless we are religious as well; we can’t fully render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s unless we also render to God the things that are God’s.”