Those of us who have lived in the USA for our entire lives don’t have much practical experience with a monarchy. Sure, we can read about countries that still celebrate (and sometimes revere) their royalty, but our governmental system doesn’t really leave room for a person with absolute authority. In fact, acting “kinglike” would be a fatal error for any American president. We have long lived with the idea that every chief executive of our country serves for a limited time, then we will all move on.
I mention this because I don’t think most of us get the whole idea of being under the rule and reign of a king. Even the citizens of Great Britain have a say about the people who actually lead their nation. They may love and respect their royals, but real political authority is now in the hands of men and women elected to serve the nation.
History is replete with examples — both good and evil — of kings and queens and various other sorts of monarchs. Idi Amin, whose title was “president,” was variously called a ruler and a dictator. He was known to simply create titles for himself, one of which may have been “King of Scotland.” While Amin was a classic example of evil, ancient Biblical history tells of a king named Solomon, renowned for his wisdom and for the great wealth of his nation during his reign. Solomon had some deep fault-lines in his personality, but we generally categorize him as a great king.
Reflecting on kings can produce a smile or a frown, depending on the nature of the ruler. Without doubt, some have ruled with genuine love and concern over their subjects. Others, realizing their “absolute power,” have ended up corrupted absolutely.
When Jesus Christ came upon the scene in the Roman outpost of Judea, the people of their little nation were, like most of the known world, under the rulership of a dictatorial nation. Rome vacillated between different forms of government — at times Caesar was in absolute control and at other times, power was in the hands of the Senate — but the Roman people certainly lacked the freedom through which we tend to interpret the idea of power and authority. Rome's distant outposts were often governed by people far more cruel than the Caesars themselves. No wonder the people of Judea longed for their own “king,” who would deliver them from the oppression of the great empire.
Jesus, though, came for a different purpose. He made that clear when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) What does that mean? What is this kingdom thing anyway? It’s fairly easy to recognize that Jesus is…ultimately…King of kings and Lord of lords, but how does this whole “kingdom of God” idea play out for those who follow Jesus every day? How does it work for those in a free nation like the USA or those in a totalitarian place? That’s the topic this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. It’s our last episode of “Why Bother?” As we have been saying all summer, “This stuff matters!” That’s doubly true of this subject, so I hope you can join us Saturday or Sunday. Can’t be there? Catch the podcast!