Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Kingdom and the King - Let there be Reign

In response to Sunday’s Sermon, two people have posted comments and I’d like to take a moment to respond:

Comment 1: Referring to your sermon today: why can't there be a "kingdom" without a "king"? You said this was a "great deception." Can you explain the deception. Why must there be a "king" (God) in order for their to be more peace, more forgiveness, more generosity (etc, the "kingdom") in this world?

Comment 2 (edited for length): Does discussion of God, and God's universal ways, really have to include king and kingdom terms? Is it potentially distracting and destructive to continue to focus on these particular notion? …judgment that would put others below us (in real or imagined terms) is never warranted. As such, any obsession w/ our current state of struggle, to overcome toward our own ends, is shortsighted and foolhardy.

The point of the kingdom of God isn’t to put a person or people group in power over another, but rather to allow the reign of Christ, beginning in a human heart, to radiate out into the lives of other as a blessing, and then into the culture, as we serve and bless others in the strength and name of our Servant King, who is Christ. I would argue that we do need Someone to reign over us for at least two reasons:
  1. at the purely humanitarian level, history shows us that without a ruling authority humanity will generally choose paths that are self destructive. It seems to be in the heart of man, in spite of the best intentions to the contrary, to be destructive. While it can be argued that power is the greatest corrupter of all, in the absence of power, an even more destructive anarchy comes into play, as has been seen in every power vacuum in every culture throughout history. To think that, in the absence of a ruler, people will simply decide to get along with one another is baseless, wishful thinking. The Bible speaks of the evil of the human heart, and says that this is at the core of all of our problems. Government’s rule (and hence the role of leadership) is, ideally, to keep these appetites in check. And since governments are also corruptible, it's a best to have a system of checks and balances among those in power (a point of alarm perhaps, in our present climate)

  2. at a more ‘spiritual level’, if the goal isn’t just to avoid evil, but to actively do good through works of service, justice, mercy, compassion, celebration, and reconciliation, it seems that such works are only sustainable in the human heart that is occupied by the One who alone is capable of doing such works, namely Christ. I know that many evils have been carried out in the name of Christ. I also know that a great deal of good is done apart from His name. But the Bible indicates that what is ultimately needed is the transformation of human hearts so that the heart, filled with the very life of Christ, begins to express, in a way unique to that person and heart, the actual spirit and life of Jesus! Such lives are not simply avoiding evil – but are shining as lights of hope, and are doing so in a way that is sustainable over a lifetime; like Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King, or the woman who moved to Hong Kong and worked with heroin addicts, or … your life and mine, submitted to the One who alone can guide and empower us to live the life for which we’re made!
The deception of the king without the kingdom is this: If we love peace but not the peacemaker, justice but not the just one, reconciliation, but not the source of all reconciliation, we will settle for the gifts without the giver. In Revelation, an offer of the gifts without the Giver is made by false leaders, and it appears that most of world are takers. But again, the peace won't last – we need the source, again because it is the source who alone is capable of producing the gifts in a sustained and abundant manner, as He transforms the human heart in which He reigns.


At 27/6/06 23:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just feel this needs to be emphasized:

The deception of the king without the kingdom is this: If we love peace but not the peacemaker, justice but not the just one, reconciliation, but not the source of all reconciliation, we will settle for the gifts without the giver.

At 28/6/06 09:00, Anonymous strider said...

Richard, I appreciate your response. While you addressed the importance of our need to recognize a true (True) authority to lead us through life (given our propensity to go astray), you did not address why we must (or we at least choose to) fill that role with one known as "king" with all the attending implications. Kings/kingdoms seem to be built on the very basic human desire for autonomy (read original sin). A kingdom is an in-group, with a homogeneity of people and ideas that are largely defined by the exclusion of other groups and ideas. To me, it seems Jesus' life is a grand eschewal of these exclusionary king/kingdom concepts... he chose instead a role as servant to all. The pervasive christianese mantra of becoming "servant leaders" does not seem to convey the real message of Jesus (seems more a term we use for our delusion of grandeur inherent in our acts of mere faceless charity). Just "servant" was enough for Christ. In that light, doesn't continuing to cast our place in the world/universe in prosaic king/kingdom terms fly in the face of what Christ's life proclaimed. Again, I know he used the terminology-- but it seems always in very ironic terms given the Jewish focus at the time on violent overthrow of Rome.


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