Whose Kingdom Come?

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.

Categories: Christianity, church, Kingdom | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Whose Kingdom Come?

  1. First of all – this is an excellent critique. If people want to be politically involved in things, that’s great but they shouldn’t be saying the Bible or God tells them so – unless they can show proof.

  2. Pingback: test » Blog Archive » Whose Kingdom Come?

  3. I appreciate the comment and link to the post, but I thought I would point out that my name is actually Jeff. : )

  4. joanball

    Hello Jeff: I appreciate your comments and would love to hear your thoughts on something. I recognize many of my own observations in your post and wonder if you’ve ever considered how best to confront these issues with an eye on unity within the Body? As a lifelong atheist, turned agnostic, turned unlikely Christian in my late 30s, I was absolutely confounded by the infighting among Christians when I cam to faith. Somehow, as an outsider looking in I thought it would be different . Now that I am on this side of the fence, I have gone from becoming self-righteous about self-righteous people to believing that I am not only called to love “non-believers” (which is very easy for me) but also to love those men and women of faith whose positions on matters of culture differ radically from my own (far more challenging for me.) Is this something you’ve considered?

  5. Joan,
    Thanks for the encouragement and the question. I think God makes it clear in Scripture that love is THE defining characteristic of His people. Speaking as someone who was also extremely self-righteous in my younger years, I can testify to the difficulty involved in loving without compromise and holding the truth without compromise. I read an excellent book several years back called The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn. It is a small book but it packs a punch. The point of the book is that Jesus was able to balance grace and truth perfectly in His life and ministry. He was able to say things to people that were incredibly harsh at times, but there was no question that He still loved the people He was talking to.

    The best thing I have found for loving people that are “hard to love” is to try and put myself in their shoes. If you find that other believers are frustrating to you because of their words or actions, try to understand that they probably mean well. I have discovered that most people I run into in church (and I was raised in church) have the best of intentions. This doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it can help soften us when we much confront bad behavior. If it is someone that you deal with on a personal level, then seek them out and talk to them. Seek to understand their viewpoint. You may still disagree on the best way to approach the situation. If you disagree, try to offer an alternative. I find it instructive to note that Paul didn’t try to solve every church problem. He told people to agree in the Lord, but he didn’t take sides or tell them which one was right (Philippians 4:2) And he didn’t say if one of them was right. He also said at one point that sometimes we would have to let God change people (Philippians 3:15). At times we are just supposed to let it drop if it doesn’t pertain to the core of the Gospel (Romans 14). I don’t know if that helps you any, but it has helped me.

  6. Tim Melton

    Hey man, this is Tim Melton of Sacrosanct Gospel. You and I have been chopping up a little over on Michael’s site and I just thought I’d drop by and say ‘Hi’. Cool blog, man! I also appreciate this particular post and I heartily agree with your assessment of the political hijacking that has occurred in most evangelical circles. How deceptive the evil one is…he gets us all politically jazzed up and distracted and we forget what we’re really supposed to be about – worshiping and serving Jesus, loving one another, proclaiming the gospel, teaching God’s Word, and caring for the marginalized. What a mess we have become…I’m so thankful that Christ is Sovereign, that he has a handle on all of this. God be praised!

    In response to your latest comment over on ‘Jesus Shaped’, I would again recommend that you take a look at ‘Surprised by Hope’ by NT Wright. It’s a really great read that offers a very biblically rooted view of Kingdom ‘Now’ and Kingdom ‘Not Yet’. Thought provoking stuff. Peace!

  7. Tim,
    Good to have you looking around here and thanks for the compliment. You probably recognize part of this post as inspired from that comment thread. I have yet to read any of NT Wright’s stuff. I have heard about him a lot at Michael’s blogs but haven’t had the time. I am doing the scholarly thing taking classes toward a master’s degree so my leisurely reading has ground to a halt. If I get a chance, I will surely check out the book. Might be later rather than sooner though. Thanks for the recommendations and the conversations.

  8. Steve

    Since McCain is running against Obama, as a conservative I have to vote for Obama.

    Things will get worse with McCain.

    Things will get much worse with Obama. And that is why I am voting for Obama. For things will only get worse with McCain but they need to get much worse for us to survive as a nation.

    Of course a statement like that needs an explanation. And I will do so in the form of an analogy. Do you know how to cook a frog? Well, if you put it in a pot of boiling water the frog will quickly jump out. But if you put a frog in a pot of water that is warm and turn up the heat gradually up to boiling the frog will just sit there not even realizing it is being boiled alive.

    Obama is the one who puts the frog into the hot water and McCain is the one who turns up the heat gradually. With Obama his extremism will cause a backlash so great that America will start electing good leaders to oppose him. It happened in 1980 and it happened in 1994. And it will happen again.

    But McCain he will really be the death of the Republican Party. As I said above things will get worse with McCain and therefore he and the Republican Party will get the blame. And then America will elect a Democrat in 2012 for President. And if recent history has shown us anything it has shown that the Democratic Candidate has been getting increasingly extreme. So I can’t tell you who the Democrats will put up that year but I can tell you that person will be as extreme if not more extreme than Obama. So, how long are we putting off having an Obama-like President? Four Years?

    And meanwhile McCain has shown that he wants to drive conservatives and conservatism away from the Republican Party. For those of us who believes that the only solution to our country’s problems, it is unacceptable that neither of the two major parties represents conservative values.

    So, I am left with the ultimate act of “tough love”. Not to say there aren’t hard times ahead for there is but that is true with McCain as well. But at least with Obama there is hope that things will get better after him. With McCain all hope is lost.

  9. Steve,
    I am afraid that you missed the point of this post. I don’t think we should get so worked up over the election or even who to vote for. We should vote based on our conscience and the fact that we will answer to God for all that we say and do, not as a strategy to help our favorite political party. The only solution to our country’s problems in the Lord Jesus Christ expanding His kingdom into the lives of more and more people. When that happens, you don’t need a “Christian” government in the US, because you will have Christ’s governance over the hearts of the people. And please note as well the comments about God’s Kingdom. His Kingdom is not the US, or any other earthly principality.
    Thanks for the comments,

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