Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is Jesus' Kingdom Political?

Joel at Unsettled Christianity made a great post about the political implications of our Baptism and the Eucharist:

Now, I of course wouldn't limit Baptism the Eucharist to what he states there (nor do I think he would, either). However, as he's getting at, I think too often there's been this tendency in Christianity today to think, "God's up there in heaven doing his thing and preparing a place for me while I'm down trying to get as many people to come with me as possible."

Is that really the meaning of the Lord's Prayer when Christians pray, "Your kingdom come, you will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven?" Did many Jewish authorities totally misunderstand Paul's good news (political emperor language) when they said he proclaimed there to be another king besides Caesar (Acts 17:7)? Do we ever see Paul speaking like that in Acts on his missionary journeys? Would a 1st century Judean really understand our modern Western distinctions of religious/political/social? Does it even make sense to call the Pharisees and Sadducees just religious groups? In John 18:36, did not Jesus say to Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world?” (not “of” as many suppose. The Greek preposition is εκ, “out of.” So the sense is origin, not locality, thus stating, “My kingdom is here, but it’s not the type of kingdom that comes from this world.”)? These are questions to wrestle with.

Now to be clear, I’m not insinuating that we should limit Christianity to merely a social sphere (like an international charity or elite club), a political sphere (much of the American “Religious Right,” a political party, or the Papacy in which the Church becomes the kingdom of this world), or a religious sphere (place for meditation and praise to supernatural beings).

What I am insinuating is that the Church (una sancta for you Dogmaticians) doesn’t fit squarely into any one of these categories (which isn’t meant to be exhaustive) because it’s all encompassing. Ever since Jesus ascended and became enthroned as king (Christ) over all powers and authorities (the message of Ascension Day), he began the work of new creation, of creating the “new heavens and new earth” (his resurrection from the dead was the “firstfruits” and occurred on “the first day of the week,” which sounds a bit like Genesis 1 language…) which will fully come to fruition at his return ( which doesn’t involve his people leaving, but his coming to them like the New Jerusalem in Revelation descending from heaven to earth) in power and glory. But as I said, the reality of it has been brought to the present through Jesus’ resurrection and through his Spirit which he pours out on his people. 


  1. That is a cool way to think of the church. Similarly the church's leader (Jesus) is multi-dimensionally patterned in the Old Testament as characters such as David (a king), Elijah (a prophet), priests, judges, fathers, sons, saviors, messiahs, shepherds, lambs, and whatever Moses is...

  2. Noonan, I agree! How positive and powerful is it to take Jesus' words of new creation seriously?

    And yes, you make a good point about Jesus, and it's especially true of messiahship (the Christ). Prophets, priests, and kings were all "messiahed (anointed)" when installed into office, so to speak. And yes, Moses is pretty all compassing too (social, religious, political), isn't he? Though he does call himself a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15 when predicting the coming of another prophet "like him" (that is, all encompassing like him and ushering in a new "exodus" and new covenant, Jesus!).


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