I’m glad I live in 21st century America and not 1st century Rome. But as such, I can’t help but be suspicious of my own casual ideas about what the phrase “kingdom of God” actually means, or what the word “Lord” actually means for that matter. How does a mind like mine, nurtured as it has been in the entitlements of a democracy for which I am deeply thankful, become convinced that there is a truer Government established not by “We the people…” but by “I AM the way…”, not organized according to the unalienable God-given rights of equality and the pursuit of happiness but by “Not my will” and “Take up your cross”?
I guess if I am going to start thinking about this immensely important biblical theme, I should just go ahead and assume that the kingdom of God is as far from a human democracy as the word kingdom is from democracy and the word human is from God. I should probably assume that the kingdom of God is actually a kingdom and that it is actually God’s. But to begin there is a fearful prospect, because kingdoms only have one king and “God’s kingdom” has already settled on the apostrophe of its first word and the singularity of its second.
But, on the other hand, I suppose it is a hopeful prospect in the end, because I know that a kingdom organized according to “Not my will” and “Take up your cross” is the only kingdom where the blossoms of love can be protected from the towers of greed. Sadly, wars are required to achieve freedom in a fallen world, and I am thankful for those who have died to defend the freedom of this nation. But more sadly still, crosses are required to achieve love in a fallen world, and I am struggling to defend the love of this Kingdom by taking up my own.
But daily I will try, because I know that “Take up your cross” is the only thing that will protect my wife and my children from their husband’s and father’s bitter distaste for crosses and stubborn infatuation with thrones, from his immense capacity to take them to the altar of his freedom, praying “Not thy will!”, and walk away as though no blood has been spilled in those places he has failed to love–in those times when I am too proud to say I’m sorry, too busy to stop and listen, too lazy to go to the park, too bored to read it again, too idolatrous to sacrifice myself. Selfishness in the kingdom of God is high treason. Even its more subtle and pervasive forms–neglect, coldness, humorlessness, smugness, busyness–are a declaration to the universe that the apostrophe belongs to another name and the kingdom is divided.
Lord, help me to daily drag all my freedom with all its fleshy and unalienable rights up this tireless hill to that intersection, so that I might crucify it, in order that love can spill forth from my heart and into my home, my church, my community–to save my home, my church, and my community from my own tyrannical reign. Help me to believe that Jesus is really Lord in the way that God is really God and that I am really not.