One of the purposes of this blog is to imagine what the world will look like as the the kingdom of God advances and the earth is reclaimed for King Jesus. This is another way of asking what God intends for the world.
In the realm of work, this question is essential because it establishes the reason a job exists in the kingdom of God. Answering that question correctly with regard to one’s job can bring a clarity of purpose and solution for other problems that typically arise in the workplace.
is In the movie, Moneyball, the Oakland Athletic’s general manager, Billy Beane, is pondering what he is trying to do in building a winning Major League Baseball team. He is in fact revolutionizing the game through the use of analytics in an effort to allow teams with less money to compete with teams with much larger payrolls.
But in the midst of despair Beane tells an associate, “Baseball doesn’t matter.” The statement is a shocker because by this time in the movie, the viewer is pulling for Beane to succeed and cannot help but ask, “Why does baseball matter?”
It’s a question that could be asked of any professional sport. Players are paid millions of dollars a year; they are idolized, and commercialized. Why? It’s just a game, right?
In part I and part II of this series, I built on the premise that Jesus used the metaphor of the kingdom to describe His rule because the concept of the earthly kingdom was the thing most like Jesus’ rule.
I suggested we could look at earthly kingdoms and where their characteristics aligned with the Bible’s descriptions of the kingdom of God, we could learn something about the kingdom of God. In the first two posts, I built on this premise with the issue of sovereignty. Here I address the issues of territorial sovereignty and royal lineage.
Territorial Sovereignty. Like earthly kings, Jesus’ sovereignty is complete and coextensive with the jurisdiction of His kingdom. Jesus’ sovereignty is not limited to a particular area but includes the entire natural realm and spiritual realm. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. (Matt. 28:18). As a result, Jesus has authority over the demons that dwell in the spiritual realm (Luke 4:36) and all the humans who dwell on the earth. (John 17:2). It makes sense that all authority in the spiritual realm and natural realm would be given to Jesus, because without it He would not be able to fulfill His role as King throughout His entire jurisdiction.
In the previous post, I gave two examples from history, to illustrate the medieval controversy of whether the State should be subject to the church (the organization or “local church”) or the church subject to the State.
It was a legitimate question in the middle ages when Romans 13:1 was interpreted as vouchsafing the heads of state the divine right of kings and the organizational church was strong enough to contend with the State for leadership. At the end of that post though, I suggested those in the middle ages were asking the wrong question, that the question is not whether the church should be subject to State or the Sate subject to the church, but whether the Church (the true body of believers) should be subject to King Jesus.
In other words, rather than trying to put one organization under the other, which is the human impulse, we should recognize that both are under, and must answer to, King Jesus. The heads of States must answer to God (Romans 13:6), and Christians in government and in the church must answer directly to God as well. If both the State and church obey God, there will be no conflict between the two. The more the kingdom of God advances on the earth and the more people submit to God, the less conflict there will be between church and State, so long as those in the Church do in fact submit to King Jesus.
Should the church or the state be supreme on earth? This was a question in the middle ages; it is relevant question today, and it will need an answer in the future as the Kingdom continues to advance on the earth.
This was a real issue in the middle ages. Two events acutely illustrate how serious the question was in the middle ages. The first event was the murder of Thomas Becket on December 29, 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral. Becket had served as Lord Chancellor for King Henry II of England since 1155, and was so competent and loyal that in 1162 Henry decided to appoint Becket Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the church in England.
But Becket, who apparently understood what it meant to do his job sincerely, acted in loyalty to the church rather than Henry when Henry demanded he sign papers effectively acknowledging the supremacy of the crown over the church. Becket’s loyalty to the church led ultimately to Becket’s murder in Canterbury cathedral by some of Henry’s men in 1170. Whether Henry impliedly ordered or merely negligently enabled Becket’s murder will probably never be known, but Henry publicly repented, and the relationship between the church and state was temporarily restored.
The Wife and I have been watching a different Christmas movie each evening in the run-up to Christmas.
In the midst of a party-less pandemic, it is the next best thing.
We started the first night with A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version), followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then the next night, my favorite, The Bishop’s Wife.
Then last night we watched a movie neither of us had ever seen, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a loose biopic on Charles Dickens’s writing of A Christmas Carol. The movie is as much fiction as fact, but it led me to a realization: I had never actually read the story Dickens wrote. I had seen several versions of the movie, and my wife and I go every year to the local theatre to see the play, but I had never read the actual words Dickens wrote.
After the movie, I went to my study to do some writing, and while there I noticed one of the temperamental track lights on the mezzanine in our library had flickered off again, so I scurried up the spiral staircase to tinker with it. My tinkering brought light, and when I looked down on the bookshelf where the light shone I noticed on top of a row of vertically stacked books a thin leather-bound book, with gold embossed pages, and gilded lettering on the cover:
A Christmas Carol
I then remembered the book was a gift from my wife, but I had not yet read it.