Sunday May 9, 2004 | Greg Boyd
The Cross and the Sword series continued with this sermon, which covered the final effect of failing to distinguish between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world: we Christians begin to see ourselves as the “protectors” and “fixers” of social morality, as the moral standard bearers. But our only job as the body of Christ is to look like Jesus, the one sinless human, who stood in unity with others and met their needs. Greg also addressed the idea that America is a theocracy.
This week Greg concluded the “Sword vs. the Cross” series by completing his list of things that happen when the Kingdom of God is fused with the kingdom of this world. We have seen that when there is confusion about the two kingdoms and proper distinctions are not made, the follow can happen:
The Christian witness is compromised.
The Church loses its missionary focus on the home front.
We begin to trust in power over rather than power under.
We trust the world to set the agenda, and then we “weigh in” on the terms set by the wrong kingdom.
Greg’s fifth and final point was the focus of this week’s message. When we fail to distinguish between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, we Christians begin to see ourselves as the “protectors” and “fixers” of social morality, as the moral standard bearers. Greg’s correction to this was clear. Our one job as the Church is to look like Jesus (this is why we are called “the Body of Christ”). Jesus’ message was that the Kingdom of God was at hand. There is Good News in the forgiveness of sins! There is freedom from the kingdom of this world and a new life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus was the one sinless person and if ever there was someone with the “right” to do a lot of moral commentary, he simply stood in unity with all human beings, the “least of these” not withstanding. The pattern extended to his disciples who were sent out to bless people, stand in unity with them (through fellowship an shared meals among other ways), meet their needs, and announce that this was happening because the Kingdom of God is at hand! The Good News is here!
Some may ask, “What about John the Baptist and the voices of the prophets?” Greg spent considerable time heading off some of these objections at the pass. Because Israel was intended to be a Theocracy where God was the ultimate authority, it comes as no surprise that God used prophets to hold the people and the human rulers accountable. This prophetic voice was legitimate where the governing structure is understood to be theocratic (God-ruled). America, however, is not a theocracy. It was never intended to be one, and it has not become one. Unfortunately, we sometimes speak as if we were in fact a country run by God rather than by democratically elected and very human leaders. Unlike Israel, God has not called America into existence. Even when God did call a nation like Israel into being, and even when God did send Jesus into this structure, Jesus STILL didn’t do what some Christians seem to want here in America. Jesus didn’t try to take Israel back for God in the way that Israel expected. Jesus didn’t fight for the rights of the Jews over against the Roman conquerors. Jesus didn’t free Israel from bondage to Roman rule.
Jesus started a whole new Kingdom. Of course, the Jews were invited; all were and are invited to participate. Jesus didn’t come to proclaim a nationalistic agenda that would benefit the Jews. And in the same way, God is not working for a nationalistic agenda that works for the good of Americans today. America is not the light of the world; only Jesus Christ deserves that title! Only Jesus is the reconciler of all nations to God. Only Jesus is the forgiver of sins and the hope of the world.