As American Christians we are very familiar with the “culture war”. We have been told that we have to confront evil in our culture and change our culture back to a “godly” one. We need to work to make America honor God and make American culture honor God. If someone would kindly point out the Biblical mandate for this call, I would appreciate it. Many outspoken Christians in the public square have spent much time and effort in attempting to reshape America into the grand vision of an earthly kingdom that God would be proud to call His own. I hate to tell them this, but God isn’t interested in making America into His new chosen people or His new chosen land. It isn’t a new Washington D.C. that will be coming down in Revelation 21. We don’t expand God’s Kingdom by making a Christian culture or nation. We expand God’s Kingdom by telling more people His Gospel and thereby finding more people who choose to acknowledge Him as Lord and King.
There is a simple dividing line present here. Those who submit to the authority of the King are subjects of the Kingdom. Those who submit to the authority of anything or anyone else are not. If Christ is the only Authority, then we must submit to Him alone. The Kingdom of God is God’s people. It isn’t an organization or a nation here on earth. The Kingdom of God is the people who have acknowledged that “Jesus is Lord” and become His loyal subjects in His Kingdom. There is a shift going on in the Kingdom. I first saw this quote at Jesus Shaped Spirituality and Greg Boyd highlights this in a post on his blog:
Millions are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus are called to love the unlovable, serve the oppressed, live in solidarity with the poor, proclaim Good News to the lost and be willing to lay down our life for our enemies. Multitudes are waking up to the truth that the distinctive mark of the Kingdom is the complete rejection of all hatred and violence and the complete reliance on love and service of others, including our worst enemies. Masses of people are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus aren’t called to try to win the world by acquiring power over others but by exercising power under others — the power of self-sacrificial love.
Too many times we have forgotten the words of Christ in John 18:36, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’” When Pilate tries to assert his authority in John 19, Jesus simply reminds him that his authority doesn’t exist without God’s permission(John 19:11). The Kingdom of God is as far removed from power over others as the east is from the west. The Kingdom of God is about service and humility. It is God’s people, who are subjects of His Rule.
Unfortunately, this is a hard lesson in America. We have religious leaders who are determined to exercise influence and power in the here and now. They are seeking to create God’s Kingdom here on earth using earthly methods. Just today come the stories of Rick Warren and James Dobson to show how far we have fallen. Rick Warren is going to host a forum with two presidential candidates to help people get to know the candidates. He is going to find out how they address major issues for our nation:
“While I know both men as friends, and they recognize I will be frank, but fair, they also know I will be raising questions in these four areas beyond what political reporters typically ask,” Warren said. “This includes pressing issues that are bridging divides in our nation, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights.”
Here is the kicker though. Look at his list of responsibilities:
“In addition to my primary calling to proclaim the Gospel truth of salvation in Jesus Christ, these Civil Forums further three other life goals: helping individuals accept responsibility, helping the Church regain credibility and encouraging our society to return to civility,” Warren said.
Then we have the wisdom of James Dobson and Albert Mohler discussing the coming election and deciding that maybe voting for the “lesser of two evils” is really a good thing:
“There’s nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context,” Dobson said in a statement to the AP. “Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain.”
Earlier, Dobson had said he could not in good conscience vote for McCain, citing the candidate’s support for embryonic stem cell research and opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, as well as concerns about McCain’s temper and foul language.
It is not my intention in this space to be highly political, but this goes to the heart of the issue of God’s Kingdom in a sense. The Bible is clear when it tells us how we are to treat those that God puts in authority over us. But there is a wide variety of opinion on Biblical responsibilities of those of us who are priviledged enough to choose those authorities. The Bible says that we have to give an account of ourselves before God (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Peter 4:5) and I happen to think that extends to how we choose those who would lead our country. Which is why I haven’t voted for one of the two main party presidential candidates for the last couple of elections (I have voted by the way). But, it is wrong to say that God even says we must vote. It is an honor and a priviledge to do so, and I do it because I respect the sacrifice that so many have made. It is an honor I don’t take lightly however. But I don’t think I am ushering in God’s Kingdom at the ballot box.
There is also the economic front of the culture war, where Christians seek to bully others into being more “Christian” by the force of our economic power. We have created our own marketing niche and challenged retailers to cater to us as an economic power. We have sought to influence corporations into doing things the way we want them to through the strength of boycots. McDonalds is the latest to feel the wrath of overwrought believers seeking to make God’s way the only way for a “godless” corporation. Are we really trying to save McDonalds? Can we save McDonalds really? Or are we so hungry for a Big Mac that we can no longer eat in good conscience that we are going to bully them into submission? (so we can eat a Big Mac again! ). This is just another way in which we become more obsessed with making our culture acceptable to God instead of seeking to be acceptable to God and teaching others to do the same.
The Kingdom of God is not an easy thing. If you do a word search on the word Kingdom in just the Gospels in the Bible you get over 100 results. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom a lot, mostly in parables. Before we start building God’s Kingdom here on earth, let’s find out what Jesus said it should be. The picture may surprise you.