“My kingdom is not…” (Some thoughts on the election)

kingdom-of-godWhen Jesus visibly came to earth, He came to a setting that was a long way from a democracy. Roman rule was absolute. Caesar was not questioned. This wasn’t just not democracy; it was the antithesis of democracy.

Yet, what did Jesus tell people? “Render unto Caesar…” He didn’t say to overthrow the government. He didn’t suggest that the people should try pushing for a democracy.

Instead, He said something far more radical. “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) That’s crazy talk.

Well, unless He was far more interested in eternal things than temporal ones. Unless He was more interested in the souls of people than in earthly governments. Then it’s not crazy talk. Then it all makes sense.

He didn’t come to overthrow that evil government. He could have. But He didn’t.

He came to redeem people. To make dead people alive. To bring people back into a right relationship with the Father. When you hold that picture up against a particular form of government, there’s not much comparison, is there?

For centuries, people – including Christians – have lived and even thrived under socialist regimes and even totalitarianism. In fact, it was in the culture of a pagan ruling monarch – who had delusions that he was a god – that the Holy Spirit prompted the Apostle Paul to write:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1-2)

In context of the history of that day, I really don’t like those words. But they’re in the Bible.

Honestly, as I read the Bible, I think God is far less concerned about the form of government than we are. Again, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

In the Old Testament, God was upset when the people wanted a king. But it wasn’t because in God’s mind that was a less-desirable form of government than, say, if the people had requested a president. No, it was because they had rejected God.

Any form of government we have is so far below what God wants for us that to suggest that one form of earthly government is vastly superior to another seems to miss the higher plans and purposes of God.

From our perspective, democracy – and its twin brother, capitalism – is often seen as a good and godly idea. But there is nothing in Scripture that would suggest that democracy – every person getting a vote in whatever happens – is God’s choice for government. And, the fact is that capitalism helped bring about the greediness of Wall Street, and that greed was a major contributing factor to a number of serious social issues, including the housing collapse of several years ago and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. In fact, many would suggest that it is that disparity that has helped fuel the growing terrorism of this century.

Now, please hear me. I am not saying that capitalism and democracy are emphatically, across-the-board wrong. But they are not necessarily always right, either.

And don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I greatly appreciate the government and even the culture in which I grew up. It has afforded a dimension of ease and comfort and stability that is nice, even intoxicating. Having been immersed in such a setting for so very long, we can think this is God’s best. And I will say that I do think there is a dimension of God’s blessing on us as a nation. But when that blessing is turned inward – when the things that God gave as gifts, including great blessings like freedom and prosperity, when those become the objects of our affections in place of Him – then maybe there’s a problem.

“We have allowed our vision for America to capture our hearts more deeply than God’s vision for us as his ambassadors.” [Charles Drew, Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew?, Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012, pg. 50 (Kindle version)]

See, I think we have to ask ourselves, “What is most important?”

Think about it. Why is the Church flourishing in China today, when, in many ways, it’s floundering here? In large part it’s because our life of freedom – of ease and comfort – has made us far-less committed disciples.

And, again, don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to leave my children or grandchildren in a culture where they don’t have the freedoms that we have enjoyed. I really don’t like that idea at all.

At the same time, if given the choice to give them an environment where they will be more likely to prosper materially or one where they will be more likely to prosper spiritually, that isn’t a difficult decision.

Honestly, I am far less concerned about the outcome of this election than I am the process. The name-calling and demeaning comments from Christians toward those who are not of “our fold” is damaging to the message of Christ. That – far more than our lifestyle options or long-term comfort here – should be our higher interest.

We’re only here on earth for a short time. According to my calculations, eternity is going to be a lot longer than whatever time we have here.

If it comes down to two options: souls being saved or our comfort here and now, which do you think should be the higher priority for us as His people?

(By the way, before you write to correct me, let me add this: I am not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t vote, nor that Christians shouldn’t speak up about right and wrong. I do think we have put too much effort into politics and not enough into the Kingdom of God.)

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4 Responses to “My kingdom is not…” (Some thoughts on the election)

  1. Cheri Walters says:

    Thanks, Tom, for expressing what I’ve been thinking/feeling as this election season has devolved. We need to keep reminding ourselves and one another that we are strangers in a strange land, and part of the Kingdom Jesus calls us to. I appreciate your thoughtful words.

  2. Bev Ingraham says:

    I am reminded of an old Baptist gospel hymn I sang in my childhood: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through, My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door; And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

    I have been feeling rather restless of late. As I read horrifying accounts of Christians being tortured by ISIS, when I think about the millions of babies slaughtered in the name of “woman’s rights,” when I see, literally before our eyes, our country completely walking away from God, and with the Supreme Court in the balance in just a few weeks… I am feeling so… homesick. Homesick because I see now what Jesus meant when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and I can’t help but whisper, “Even so come, Lord Jesus!” Paul understood this: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8) (or in my case, a little impatiently)??? Then, when I start to really feel homesick, I have a renewed sense of responsibility to share the gospel, knowing that as homesick as I am, there are still those who God wants yet in His Kingdom. Help us, Father, stay the course, bringing as many as we can into the Kingdom, pressing on toward the goal that calls on homeward!

    Blessings to you today, my friend!

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