To announce that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" is a very political statement. In this sense. that it is not coming through the political systems already in place. And its not coming by overthrowing those systems either. And that’s a good thing.
See, throughout history, kings have led nations and people groups to the height of power, influence, and prosperity, only to have that power vanquished by another king somewhere down the line. It’s a cycle that never ends. Somebody, somewhere is always grasping for more power and they will pursue it through imperial conquest if they have the means.
Ancient Mesopotamia was home to many of these empires: Egypt had multiple runs as the big kid on the block, as did Assyria and Babylon. Asia has also been home to many powerful dynasties, including the 13th century Mongolian empire which spread over 20% of the world’s land mass and ruled over 1 out of every 4 people on earth. Then you have the European Empires run by the British, Ottomans, Spaniards, French, Russians, and Nazis. And there are a hundred more.
But Jesus' kingdom is different. His kingdom has not been built or sustained using the methods of other rulers – nor will it crumble or fall like all the others. The expansion of His kingdom isn’t about land or power or resources or ethnicity. This is a kingdom of hearts. It is without borders – and it moves into new territory every day. You can be a part of it, and so can I. And so can ‘they’. This kingdom brings unity to a world full of division. It is led by a good King who speaks a wonderful, new identity over all of His citizens. This is why the announcement about Jesus and His kingdom became known as the gospel or the "good news". Because it is.
As earthly empires rise and fall with human rulers at the helm, disciples of Jesus have their eyes fixed on a different king, on a different kingdom, with a different value system. And we’ve been given power and authority by the King to act on his behalf wherever we find ourselves.
One of the first followers of Jesus, Paul, takes this truth and applies a word to it: ambassadors.
Consider the US ambassador to Albania for example. They work and live among the people in Albania, they speak the language. But they represent the interests of the United States.
Let’s say that ambassador calls Tennessee home; they care about the politics of Albania, but when its all said and done, what happens in the political system in Albania actually doesn’t affect their home at all.
We are ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, chosen and sent to live and work among the people of the United States; we hold a dual citizenship, but we do not hold dual loyalties.
This is important as we consider the current political climate in our nation.
We hear Republicans and Democrats and independents and Socialists talk about change, and how if we really want things to change we need to put our hope in them. But as Christians, our hope must never be in a man or a woman or in any political system. (And neither should our fear rest with them.)
Why? Because its not the model Jesus laid out for us. It's certainly not the model He gave us for extending the kingdom of God. Jesus was very intentional about everything He did. He could have given his disciples different instructions in Luke 9 or 10, in Matthew 28, in Acts 1. He could have trained his disciples to put their hope in reforming Tiberius and the emperors that followed him. But he didn't. He handed His disciples the keys to His Kingdom: a message, a method, and the power and authority to use them. This is what our hope is in. Politics aren’t the primary way Christians are called to change the world. Taking the Kingdom IN is. Announcing the good news about Jesus and His Kingdom is. Making disciples is. When we put our hope in a different set of keys, we lose the power. And the right kind of change will elude us.
When I was a boy my dad watched WWII movies. One scene from the 1970 movie, Tora Tora Tora, is embedded in my memory. It's the Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, portrayed making this statement after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant”. Here is my prayer. That the political climate in our nation, the racial tension in our nation, the fear and divisiveness being stirred up, the heroine epidemic in our communities, the sex trafficking industry thriving through pornography, etc, would not cause Jesus' church to shrink back in fear and anguish, nor cause us to fall in line with putting our hopes in a political revolution that will resolve the tensions; rather, that it would awaken a sleeping giant called the American church to its identity. The narratives of divisiveness and anger and fear and hopelessness have no place in the church of Jesus Christ. Don’t hand over you keys He gave you -- embrace them, use them. Lets step into our identity as children of the King, who live as ambassadors, who represent the interests of the King, who have the power and the authority to act with boldness and without fear, and who are always praying, with our words and with our lives, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
He is waking us up. I see it. It is coming.