“My Kingdom Is Not of This World”
by Terry Gardner
In this season we are surrounded by the factions and frictions of the human political order. Even among disciples of Jesus we find partisan political strife. We do well, in such a time, to think carefully and prayerfully about what God teaches us concerning our relationship to human power.
A year or two ago, on a visit to Great Britain, I found great interest and bitter controversy about a referendum in Scotland deciding whether Scotland should declare independence and leave the United Kingdom, or remain in it. While I was visiting, passions were enflamed; some thought such a move would be the greatest thing that ever happened and others thought it would be an absolute disaster. Yet I had little interest in which way the vote went! Why? I was not a citizen of the UK or of Scotland; I could not vote; and I would soon be moving on, as my visit was only very brief. “For our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul wrote, “from which also we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
As disciples of Jesus, we are to pass through this world of sin and sorrow, as our Lord did—teaching, preaching, and healing as we can (Matt 4:23). As we “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” all that we need to do that work will be supplied (Matt 6:33). We are not called to accumulate treasures on earth, “for where your treasure is,” Jesus says, “there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19, 21). We have work to do on earth, seeking God’s kingdom—the rule of God—and sharing it as we can with all whom we meet. We have no call to promote any kingdom of the human order or any political faction of it. Abraham “looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). When we become obsessed with party politics, are we looking for the city of God or are we focused on a kingdom that is passing away?
Yet, someone may say, preacher X who has never written about politics has come out against candidate Y! So we must oppose candidate Y! If this be true then God’s Word will have something to say about it. In the time of the emperor Nero (who murdered Christians), our brother Paul writes to disciples of Jesus in Rome to “pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13:7). In the first letter to Timothy, Timothy is encouraged to pray and give thanks “for kings and all in authority” (1 Tim 2:1-3). Timothy is to pray for King Agrippa, for the Caesars (even the vicious Nero), for all rulers whether he likes them or not. So also we should pray for rulers the world over—whether they are democrats or republicans, indeed whether they are good or evil. Let us pray that they do justice, that they love mercy, that they walk humbly (Micah 6:8), even that they speak the truth. It is not too much to ask! “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
“The president recently asked for prayer as he faces the complex and dangerous challenges of leading our country in such tumultuous times,” Franklin Graham wrote in 2014. “His request was a pointed reminder to me that I should be praying for our president and our leaders every day—not to get something from them—but simply in obedience to the Scriptures. I personally haven’t prayed the way I should, and I’m sure that’s the case for some of you as well.” We can join in that prayer. Let us seek first the kingdom of God that is eternal. The kingdoms of this world are passing away.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Can we truly love the person whose political defeat is our obsession? Can we pray for that person, before and after the election? Whoever wins the election in November, God will still be in heaven—but will my heart, soul, and spirit still be focused on God? It is good to be informed and to understand what is happening in the world, for we must live in the world as witnesses for Jesus. Yet we do well to turn away from the 24-hour resentment factory that television networks and radio talkers and internet “bloggers” provide. We do well to love all human beings and to focus on the law of the Lord, which is “perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7) and know that men and women of God “delight in the law of the LORD, and in his law” on which we may “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). We do well to “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:17-18).
All the best,