Saturday, September 17, 2022

Which Kingdom?

Too often, political efforts by churches and “Christian” organizations are barely distinguishable from the politicians and parties of this world’s kingdoms, especially in “Western-style” democracies. It seems believers must emulate the ways of this fallen age to achieve real change in society. But this common approach differs markedly from the teachings and example of Jesus.

When he first appeared in Galilee, he was heard proclaiming the “Kingdom of God” – “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!” In his life and ministry, the reign of God was invading the present age.

Cross in Storm - Photo by Harley Upton on Unsplash
[Photo by Harley Upton on Unsplash]

However, his domain was of an entirely different nature than the political systems of this world, and on more than one occasion, he refused the kind of political power that has characterized human history and institutions, including far too many churches.

In the “wilderness,” the Devil tempted Jesus by offering him “all the kingdoms of the world.” To attain absolute power, he needed only to “render homage” to the Tempter and acknowledge him as his overlord.

Surprisingly, the One called to be the “Servant of Yahweh” did not dispute Satan’s “right” to dispense political power, though he certainly did refuse it - (Matthew 4:8-11, Luke 4:5-7).

In contrast to Jesus, over the intervening centuries, many churches and believers have embraced the political methods and ideologies of this present age to advance the Kingdom of God, even though that means accommodating biblical principles and values to the existing world order.

Submission to the Devil’s overlordship is the price of political power. This world’s kingdoms “have been delivered to me and I give them to whomever I will.” Satan’s claim certainly goes far toward explaining the reprehensible behavior of governments and politicians throughout human history.

Although God destined him to rule all the kings and “nations of the Earth,” Jesus refused the satanic offer that so many others have eagerly embraced. Scripture confirmed his appointment by God to reign over the Cosmos, yet he refused the kind of political power so valued by this age - (Psalm 2:6-8).

Yet imagine all the good Jesus could accomplish if he held Caesar’s throne and commanded his legions! With him at the imperial helm, would not righteousness prevail across the Empire? Surely, if ever there was justification for resorting to State power and violence, this was it. Who would be better to wield the might and armies of Rome than the Prince of Peace?

Rather than employ political means, Jesus embraced the Way of the Cross. In the “Kingdom of God,” victory is achieved through self-denial and sacrifice. “Greatness” is measured by acts of mercy, to one’s “enemies.” Coercing others to submit to your will has no place in a realm epitomized by the Cross. The “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” delights in “mercy, not sacrifice.”


Jesus would not be the militaristic messiah intent on destroying Rome for whom so many of his contemporaries lusted. The closer he came to his death by crucifixion, the more the fickle crowds rejected him - (Luke 4:13, John 6:15).

Before his execution, Pontius Pilate inquired whether he was “the king of the Jews.” Jesus did not deny his kingship, but he responded thus to Rome’s representative - “You say that I am a king, and for this, I was born.” The Son of God qualified his kingship, stating:

  • My kingdom is not from (ek) this world. If my kingdom was from this world, then my own officers would fight that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But now, my kingdom is not from here” - (John 18:33-36).

That did not mean that his kingdom was strictly “spiritual” or otherworldly. But the source of his sovereignty was other than the political power, corruption, and violence so characteristic of the political systems of this world.

Pilate found no fault in him and was about to release Jesus, but at the instigation of the priestly authorities, the crowd demanded that Rome’s representative release Barabbas instead, a léstés (Greek) or “brigand.” The Temple authorities preferred a violent revolutionary to the Suffering Servant of Yahweh.

Contrary to the expectations of many, Jesus “took on the form of a slave” and became “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Because of his choice, God exalted him and bestowed on him “the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” - (Philippians 2:6-11).

Cathedral - Photo by Léa V on Unsplash
[Cathedral - Photo by Léa V on Unsplash]

Institutional Christianity has a sordid history of mixing Church and State. The temptation to use political power is too great.
Force appears easier than persuasion, but advancing the cause of Christ through political institutions always means resorting to the coercive power of the State in the end. Do believers not yet understand the nature of the State?

The choice is between the cruciform path trod by Jesus or the expedient and smooth superhighway offered by Satan. Christ declared that when he was “lifted up” on the cross, THEN he will “draw all men to me,” not when he was seated on Caesar’s throne. His followers are summoned to “deny themselves, take up the cross,” and follow the same path he did regardless of where it leads.

Should we, the disciples of the same Jesus who “gave his life a ransom for many,” embrace what he rejected? Or should we emulate his example of self-sacrificial service for others? We cannot do both.

  • Calvary or Rome? - (When offered by Satan, Jesus refused the political power of Rome. So, why do we continue to seek what he rejected?)
  • Perishing Meat - (In the end, only God’s kingdom will prevail and endure. All other political powers are transitory, and already they are passing away)
  • Whomever He Pleases - (Yahweh, the God of Israel, changes the times and seasons, removes kings, and sets up kings as He to achieve His purposes)