The vast majority of Jesus’ sermons and teachings deal with the kingdom of God — specifically He often preached, “the kingdom of God is near”. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what exactly that means. He’s not talking about an earthly kingdom, as He said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. Jesus came as a suffering servant and only when He returns will it be as a reigning king. And all one has to do is look around at the world to see that God’s kingdom has not yet come and His will is not being done. And yet He always said the kingdom was near.
I just recently picked up a copy of Chuck Colson’s Kingdoms in Conflict, much of which sounds dated nearly 25 years later, but his thoughts on leadership and what it means to rule are first-hand and still solid. Not a bad guy to listen to when thinking about the kingdom of God. From the chapter King Without a Country:
“I had always read the term kingdom metaphorically. […] But the Kingdom of God is a rule, not a realm. It is the declaration of God’s absolute sovereignty, of His total order of life in this world and the next. (p. 83)
“Because of the nature of the King and the price He paid for His Kingdom, much is required of its citizens, and Jesus made these demands of the Kingdom clear. Through the centuries, however, many of His followers have watered down His teaching, stripped away His demands for the building of a righteous society, and preached an insipid religion concerned only with personal benefits. This distorted view portrays Christianity not as the powerful source of spiritual rebirth… but as the ultimate self-fulfillment plan. (p. 86)
“The totality of God’s authority is a major reason many non-Christians resent Christianity, seeing it as an excuse for religious zealots to try to cram absolute orders from their God down others’ throats. But when Christ commanded His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God,” He was exhorting them to seek to be ruled by God and gratefully acknowledge His power and authority over them. That means that the Christian’s goal is not to strive to rule, but to be ruled.” (p. 88)
So far so good, but it would be dangerous to leave it there without continuing to the conclusion of the following chapter:
“Which is more threatening to a ruler — an external foe with mighty but visible armies or an eternal king who rules the very souls of men and women? The latter can command the will and affections, demand absolute obedience, impart unlimited power to His subjects, and radically change their values and lives; His followers fear no earthly power and His Kingdom has no end. In the face of such a potentate, any mere political leader must shudder.” (p. 94)
That’s why Christianity is such a radical and counter-cultural thing. This world and its corrupt leaders will never have the last word. And so we continue sharing Jesus message: “The Kingdom of God is near — repent and believe the good news!”