A Different Kind Of Kingdom
In the first chapter of The Myth of a Christian Nation Gregory Boyd contrasts the kingdom of the world with the Kingdom of God.
Boyd quotes John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world.” He goes on define the kingdom of the world, what he calls the power over kingdom. He says the current system of the world uses the power of the sword to keep order. The kingdom of the world forces itself on its people to keep them in line and doing the things they want them to do. He writes, “The power of the sword is the ability to coerce behavior by threats and to make good on those threats when necessary: if a law is broke, you will be punished. Of course, the laws of the different versions of the kingdom of the world vary greatly, but the raised sword behind the law gives them their power, and that keeps every version of the kingdom of the world intact. Laws, enforced by the sword, control behavior but cannot change hearts.”
The prevailing kingdom of the world will never transform the people living under it. They can only restrict, limit, and eliminate freedom of its citizens.
Only God will change us into the people who live lives that are aligned to the teachings of the Kingdom of God and live in the ways that Jesus did. If we want to love and serve others, to defend the rights of the widow and orphan, to build community and friendships than we will need to submit our lives to God who loves us in spite of ourselves. God will strengthen us and help us live the lives that we want to in this broken world.
Boyd goes on to explore Romans 13 where Paul writes, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Paul is asking his readers to obey earthly powers and to do good by listening to the authorities. This is a good idea. We should all obey our political leaders, yet there are times when we need to stand up to these leaders and say no. Say no to the programs, policies, and laws that go against our spiritual ideals. There are times when our governments act unjustly and to be an authentic Jesus follower in our world means standing up for what we believe is right, standing up for what God wants. Boyd writes, “God’s intent is to use any given ‘power over’ government as his servant of good.“ Sometimes governments use their power to be the servants of evil. Hitler would be an example. Bonheoffer stood against Hitler and for God when he took steps to kill Hitler that eventually lead to Bonheoffer’s death weeks before the collapse of the Reich.
As Christians, we need to take risky stands against governments that do not act as servants of Good.
Jesus’ answer to Pilate’s question found in John 18:36 is still pertinent to us today. This world’s kingdom is not the Kingdom of God. Each of us who claims to follow the way of Jesus has a part to play in enacting the Kingdom of God. We are called to live in such a way that the Kingdom of God is expressed through our lives. That we love, serve, and care for everyone in such a way that we undermine the systems of the world and allow more of God into the world around us. Christians are to be in the world and not of it; we are to live our lives our lives as Jesus would if Jesus were in our shoes.
I am not saying that we can live out the Kingdom of God in our lives on our own or that we won’t make mistakes, but that is the reason we have such as an awesome teacher, Lord, and Savior in Jesus Christ.
Boyd ends the first chapter writing, “Rather than calling on his disciples or the legions of angels that were at his disposal to exercise ‘power over’ in his defense, Jesus let himself be crucified. Why? Because Pilate and the world needed him to. It was an outrageously loving thing to do—and for this reason it violated the common sense of the kingdom of the world. The kingdom of Jesus was, and is, a radically different kind of kingdom indeed, and it is this kingdom that all who follow Jesus are called to manifest in every area of their lives.”
1 Corinthians 1: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
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