This week’s blog will be part one of a short series of blogs that will focus on the nature of the kingdom of God, Jesus and the kingdom of God, and the question of how Christians should live in the two kingdom tension? This post is merely an introduction to the topic, so if you are wondering why certain things aren’t mentioned here it is because they are coming up in later posts.
This topic has been on my mind since the hysteria surrounding the most recent American presidential election began, along with the continued infatuation amongst Canadian Christians with the American President and everything to do with America. Before we go anywhere I want to be clear about two things: 1) I am addressing professing Christians and 2) I do not intend to engage with any of the political issues. Rather, what has both intrigued and bothered me is the near idolatrous attention that the election and the candidates received from Christians; as though they had forgotten which kingdom they were a part of.
The flood of Facebook posts I saw from Christians on all sides of the debate were often anything but God-glorifying and neighbor-loving. Let’s be clear: I am not one of those Christians who thinks we should all sing “kumbaya” and never disagree, or that to love means we avoid speaking truth which is confrontational. However, I am one of those Christians who does think that when Peter says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15), he means gentleness and respect (and yes, in the Greek it still means gentleness and respect). Peter’s call to provide a defense with gentleness and respect would, for example, exclude the slander that Christians were and have been engaging in from either side of the political spectrum. In my opinion, very few instances of political engagement from Christians could be described as ‘gentle’ or ‘respectful.’ Since when does “turn the other cheek”(Mt. 5:39) actually translate to an “eye for an eye” (Mt. 5:38)? It was as though Christians had forgotten that they were and are, first and foremost, ambassadors and representatives of the Lord Jesus and not the Republican or Democratic parties. I am at a loss as to where people have found the time to find, read and post all the things that were posted. Maybe it was easy because the articles posted often lacked credible sources, and the sources they did use employed fear and anger-inducing headings (i.e. click-bait). The writers knew these headings would draw in their target audience and have them outraged and justifying the need to repost the article, often without actually reading it or asking what kind of fruit it would produce. Such actions demonstrate that, in reality, we often instinctively pursue the kingdom of the here and now, the kingdom of “me,” rather than the Kingdom of the King of Kings. We unintentionally prioritize arguments over people, political agendas over kingdom building.
Many Christians became entangled in the hysteria, and it was not just the American Christians but the Canadian Christians also, who felt like it was their God given call to let Americans and other Canadians know how they should vote or should if they could. Now, I can understand why so many answered this call to arms. For many, this was the boiling point; after years of feeling marginalized and being called names like homophobe, xenophobe, and all the other “phobes” out there, they were tired and frustrated because many of them are none of those things. When you feel cornered, unheard, and slandered you just want to fight back. At exactly this point is where the Christian is called to endure, to persevere, and to reflect the grace and mercy of God. Jesus does not pick up the sword or call down angels to free him from his captors and torturers. On the contrary, He willingly lays His life down for them (see 1 Peter 2:20-23).
Again, I want to be clear: the issue is not with politics because Christians should be in politics. The issue is not that Christians are passionate about who should lead a country, because they should care deeply about who leads the nation. My main issue is that it seems as if many Christians have forgotten who is actually in charge of this place we call earth and that as Christians – important though this temporal world is – we are a part of an eternal Kingdom ruled by and Eternal King.
As Christians, it is important to remember who we are subject to and who is in control of all things. In the end we know that whoever sits on an earthly throne has been placed there by God to fulfill His purpose and all earthly rulers are subject to the Ruler’s will, whether they believe in Him or not. It is not as though the Republicans are God’s people and the Democrats are the devil’s, and because Trump is a Republican that it makes him more Godly and less of a sinner in need of the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We see clearly in the Bible that all Rulers are in a sense God’s servants. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar—one of the most horrific and ungodly people and rulers of all time—was called God’s servant by God himself (Jeremiah 43:10). God’s plans are much greater than ours and He is building His kingdom with His people for His glory. This means that Christians are free from the fear, anxiety, and idolatry that perpetuates our politically charged culture. Global politics—with its divisive spirit—is ultimately trumped by a Savior who has “broken down” the walls that divide us (Eph. 2:14).
It seemed as though the hopes of many Christians were placed in one man – Donald Trump – and not in the God-man Jesus Christ. The intense fear many Christians felt towards the thought of either candidate or political party being in office drove the posts that were being posted. Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to lose hope, or to place hope in a man other than the Divine man. We are never justified in being ruled by fear (1 John 4:18, 2 Tim. 1:7) except by the “Fear of the Lord.” Fear and confusion in the Christian are what worry me most because they suggest that the hope of the Christian is in how things in this life turn out and not in the joy of ushering in the next one. When we place our hope in the kingdom of this world, we will inevitably become afraid and consumed in the chaos when this kingdom’s inherent instability becomes evident.
In the next several weeks we will look more in depth at how we approach this idea of the Kingdom of God, what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God, what the other apostles say about how we interact with this kingdom and it’s rulers, and how we rightly live in the tension of being a part of two kingdoms.
Thanks, Brent and Jerome for editing and sharing your insights.