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The Spirit, the Kingdom and Politics

• Scott Boren

Following a recent article in the New York Times, Scott revisited some of the questions raised by Greg in his sermon series, “The Cross and the Sword.” As a new pastor at Woodland Hills, he told about how he first learned of the sermon series and the responses people had to it. Discussing the differences between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God, Scott pointed out that as Christians, we are to belong first and foremost to God’s Kingdom, while still being engaged with what is happening in the world, but laying aside political differences when it comes to the body of Christ.

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Due to certain recent events, attention is growing around some of the politically oriented issues that all Christians, at some point, have to wrestle. Some of these issues specifically deal with how the body of Christ relates to patriotism, military violence, and social activism. In the midst of the increased attention around such emotionally charged issues, it is very important that we know what our true priorities are, particularly when we are speaking about the life of the church and how it impacts the world. If we don’t take time to clearly outline the foundation of our activity, we can easily get lost in largely unhelpful, unnecessarily divisive discussions and actually lower the church’s overall impact for God in the world. There are two crucial elements to talk about: Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus: King of the New Kingdom
Jesus of Nazareth was born into a socio-political situation that was filled with expectations. At the time of Jesus’ birth, much of the Jewish community was not only tired of the constant occupation by oppressive Roman forces, but they were also sensing a hope for God’s imminent redemption through a powerfully anointed servant of God, a Messiah. The common expectations for this Messiah drew a picture of a conquering king like David who would come in glorious power, destroy the evil power of Rome, and restore the Jewish people to their rightful place in the world. These are some of the expectations that people used to evaluate Jesus’ ministry. When Jesus began preaching and ministering, however, there was an almost immediate clash. They expected the Messiah to be a nationalistic, dominating, overpowering force that would make people succumb to his will. But Jesus came in a way that blew all of those expectations out of the water. He came as a humble servant. He promoted a type of holy distinction that confronted sin and injustice that, paradoxically, invited genuine unity among the most diverse of peoples. Jesus also promoted a kingdom of loving service of others, in the face of gross evil and violence…even to the point of being killed like a criminal on a cross. Jesus’ revolutionary actions truly made him a “misunderstood Messiah!”

Holy Spirit: Fiery Baptism
Tied very closely to Jesus and his kingdom is the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist explicitly stated that the Messiah would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire. What many people didn’t understand was that they would actually be “immersed” into a new understanding about reality. The Holy Spirit empowers people to see new options for promoting God’s kingdom that do not follow the normal ways that the world operates. We no longer see things from the divisive vantage point of some of the world’s distinctions. Because of this empowerment, there are two important points to make here…

Differences are real, but not overwhelming our unity in Christ’s Kingdom Within Jesus’ own 12-member band of disciples, there was incredible diversity of political worldviews. These were real differences of such significance that it cannot be minimized or overstated. What is very important to note is that, even with some drastic differences like these, they were still unified for Jesus and his mission. Not even hardcore divergent political opinions stopped his band from working together.

We ask different kinds of questions of the world around us. There is no way that we are going to find all of the “right” answers for things in this life, but there is a certain posture that is important to have when asking these questions. That posture involves humility, where we realize that faithful, yet limited human beings may have different answers to the questions. It also involves total focus upon a perspective that hold’s Jesus’ ministry at the center…and evaluates everything from what Jesus’ ministry represents.

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Topics: Kingdom of God, Politics


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Focus Scripture:

  • Philippians 2:1-8

    Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

    In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

    rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

    8 And being found in appearance as a human being,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!

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