“One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out.” – C.S. Lewis’s 1955 novel The Magician’s Nephew.
We hear a lot of rhetoric today about nationalism and citizenship, particularly in the current debate over immigration in this country. Many white evangelical Christians have joined the political chorus, seemingly indifferent to their citizenship in the kingdom of God.
Might it be that these professing Christians have put more credence in the rhetoric surrounding the former, than the immutable truth of the later?
If so, maybe it’s time for us to begin re-thinking what it means to be a Christian, and a citizen of the kingdom of God described in the Gospel of Luke.
I envision the kingdom of God as points of light across a borderless expanse throughout the world – each point of light representing true Christianity displayed in the lives of individual people living out the Gospel, or more specifically, the “Sermon on the Mount“, given by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5-7.
“God’s kingdom isn’t something you can see. There is no use saying, ‘Look! Here it is’ or ‘Look! There it is.’ God’s kingdom is here with you” (or “in your hearts“) Luke 17:20-21
When Jesus delivered the “Sermon on the Mount“, he previewed how a Christian should live in the kingdom of God – in essence a life that is accepting of and pleasing to God. A life that is free from hypocrisy, and that models the grace, love, and virtue of Jesus himself.
Christians began to abandon the kingdom of God following the “Edict of Thessalonica“, issued in 380 AD. The edict made Christianity the formal state religion of the Roman Empire. Before that in 313 AD, the persecution of Christians ended under the reign of Roman emperor Constantine, who also became the emperor of the church during his reign.
What is significant about this time in history, is that for the first time, instead of being persecuted for their faith in the kingdom that Christ talked about, the Christian church found itself a part of the state, and it’s leaders were suddenly power-brokers – a power which the Christian church has abused with regularity throughout history, beginning with Constantine. To coerce others into their form of Christian orthodoxy, the church used its punitive powers, which heralded the Crusades, and the Inquisition.
Instead of points of light, there was growing darkness – a darkness that continues to grow today around the world, but most notably, in America. Many are still living the Old Testament rather than the New Testament and the kingdom that Christ provided us through his death and resurrection. God’s kingdom reigns in the hearts of those who choose to embrace it – not in the political realm.
There are many Christians, and their leaders today that seem more concerned about political discourse and alliances, than the discourse offered by Christ with his ‘Sermon on the Mount“. I talk about this more in “A Picture Says it All“.
Christianity is not coercive. It cannot be strong-armed into people’s lives by laws, political ideologies, violence, or intimidation. The kingdom of God, is in most ways, antithetical to the kingdom of the world and country in which we live today.
For the first few hundred years after Christ, Christians modeled the kingdom of God, and were persecuted for it by a diametrically opposed culture and system of government. They were the first points of lights in a world that wanted to extinguish them – then darkness began to replace light as later Christians strayed from the teachings of Christ, in favor of power and influence.
The same is happening today. Just take a moment to look around you.
There are large swaths across this country where the points of light belonging to the kingdom of God have been extinguished, because of indifference to the ethic found within the “Sermon on the Mount“.
Being a point of light and pursuing a life in God’s kingdom, both now and yet to come, involves seeing the world around us through Kingdom lenses.
Can a true follower of Christ really see it any other way?