Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Kingdom of God: Where Does Our Alligience Lie?

Within theological circles, there are many views and interpretations of what Jesus meant when He talked about the Kingdom of God.  There are about 140 instances in the New Testament where this is referred to directly or alluded to in other wording.  Either way, there has been an ongoing debate about what the kingdom of God exactly referred to.  Some have claimed that the Kingdom was wholly manifest in Jesus’ presence on earth and represented in His words and deeds.  Some claim that any reference to the Kingdom is completely a reality of the future and is associated with Christ’s second coming.  The most common interpretation has to do with elements of both arguments and is sometimes referred to as the “already/not yet” tension.  In essence, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated with Christ’s first advent, exists today and will be complete when he returns again.  Today Christ’s love exists through the life of the Church, but the world is still subject to evil to some extent.  This is the view that I personally ascribe to and contextually what Scripture seems to be referring to.  (See Luke 10:9, 11:20, Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:5, Luke 17:21)    

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what the Kingdom of God should look like and what my responsibility is within the Kingdom.  What is my responsibility and what is the Church’s responsibility in advancing the Kingdom?  Obviously, since the Kingdom of God exists, what we do with our lives has a direct effect on its manifestation and advancement.  Consequently, since there exists this “not yet” element to the Kingdom, what we don’t do, or the negative aspects of our lives, hinder the Kingdom.  The more we live as Christ and represent His Body as the Church, the more that the world will see the Kingdom and understand what God originally intended for the world.  When we live in opposition to Christ, the Kingdom is reduced to mere words, hypocrisy and a lack of belief from culture.  

I bring this up because people often ask me about my political views and party affiliation.  I admit that there was a time when I was the typical conservative right-wing Christian that had the world view that Jesus was not only American, but started His movement right here in the good old USA.  I believed that Jesus would have only voted conservative and cheered for us when the USA went to war.  As long as Jesus and His teachings lined up with that picture of American Christianity, I was OK with being His hard-line follower.  But over the last five years or so, my views have radically changed. 
Well, before you accuse me of being a bed-wetting liberal, communist or socialist scumbag, allow me to explain.  First of all, I don’t consider myself to be a liberal or Democrat either.  In fact, I no longer side with any political party and refuse to align myself with the “left” or “right”, unless I’m reading a map.  I’m no longer registered as a Republican voter, and will not side with the Democrats either.  I don't use God to promote my view of politics and choose coffee over tea.  For lack of other options, I assume the government would classify me as an “Independent”, but I never identify myself with that label either.  Going one step further, my citizenship as an American is secondary and not really how I identify myself as well.
Now, let’s be clear.  I’m not one of those people who are ashamed of America, believe in anarchy or have a Utopian view of what the world should look like.  I don’t believe in John Lennon’s “Imagined” view of life and tend to look at life through a more realistic set of lenses.  Believe it or not, I’m still a pretty black and white person.  What I’m getting at, is that if the Kingdom of God is a reality, even if incomplete, it is the Churches responsibility to make it a reality.  And the first thing we have to do is decide to put His Kingdom first, even if it means denying our allegiance to man-made kingdoms.  Jesus said, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else," (Matthew 6:33)  This is the only way that the kingdom of God will be seen as a reality and cause culture to want to be a part of it.  It has to overshadow culture, country, communities and even individual churches.

What would this look like?  Well, C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, that if Christians were functioning and living as they were originally intended to, most people would scoff and label it socialism.  And you know what?  He’s right.  If we model the early Church and all that Christ taught in the New Testament, we would be living a very socialist existence.  Selling our possessions, sharing all that we have with anyone in need, choosing non-violence and actively loving others, including our enemies, looks more like a hippie commune, doesn’t it?  But here’s the thing: these ways of living life cannot be mandated by a government and this is what this blog is all about.  The principles of socialism are not bad in and of themselves, but when a man made government initiates them, and they are based on man and not God, the end result is disastrous.  Only the Church can initiate this kind of revolutionary way of living.  Only the Church can and should look this way.  These are supernatural principles.  When we live as Christ calls us to live, people see a counter-cultural way of living and advance a Kingdom that doesn’t make a lot of sense to the world.  It really has nothing to do with politics or party affiliations.  It has to do with following a King that rules a radically different Kingdom.  It has to do with citizenship and where it ultimately lies.                       


Anonymous said...

Wow Jake, I have been forced by the Spirit to recognize this same truth. I too was a card carrying Republican and even believed the logic in “Atlas Shrugged” touting the virtues of selfishness. The tough thing though, is trying to live a counter-cultural way of living to advance a Kingdom like this when the mainstream evangelical church is so focused on self. I also am not ashamed of America or ashamed of the mainstream church. But, I do find myself trying to get people I engage to see me for what I believe as a Christian before I just jump in there and tell them I am a Christian. I know if it was me and I was not a Christian, the stereotypical image of an evangelical would make me take everything said with a grain of salt.

I know that for me, I am going to try my best to be a good citizen of the real Kingdom. And if the church will not initiate this kind of revolutionary way of living then you will see me continue to endure the ridicule of my Christian brothers and speaking out and voting for people and ideas that promote others over self.

Jake Kampe said...

Hey, thanks. I always appreciate the input. It helps me realize that people actually read my blog from time to time. Sometimes I feel like my thoughts are just drifting off into cyberspace. We've got a lot of work to do in the Church, but she's made it this far. She'll be OK if we just focus on what God called us to do. Peace & blessings!