The Jews of two thousand years ago thought that when the Messiah came, he would lead them in the overthrow of the Roman Empire. They were completely flummoxed by a person who claimed to be the Messiah while ignoring the tyrannical empire that oppressed Israel. That servant Jesus riding on a borrowed colt, the Jesus who claimed to have brought the kingdom near, confused them. Jesus did not march on Rome. Jesus marched on evil.
The existence and power of evil is a major biblical theme. Evil manifests itself in many places, including government. The Bible is about God’s war with evil and with Satan, who is the origin and power of evil. Ancient Jews were right to regard the Roman government as oppressive in the extreme, evil in many of its manifestations. They were wrong, however, to think that God’s kingdom was about earthly government. The real, and sad, truth was that they did not so much want Roman government gone, as they wanted to be in control of it. They wanted the power, and the crucifixion of Christ demonstrates that they had a good understanding of the way to appropriate that power for their own purposes. The ancient Jewish leadership was not looking for a Messiah who would rescue all people from the power of evil. They wanted a Messiah who would take the power away from Rome and give it to them. They thought that if they just had the power, instead of Rome, then all would be well. Read the books of 1 and 2 Kings or 1 and 2 Chronicles if you want to see how that would have worked out. The religious leaders wanted to march against government. Jesus marched against evil.
The work of Christ’s people may include being salt and light in government, but wherever a Christian exhibits salt and light, the purpose is not to obtain power; the purpose is to defeat evil. It would actually be counter-productive for Christians to seek the power of government since every Christian is a repository of the power of God. The outworking of God’s power in a human life has pushed back against government far more often than government power has ever blessed anyone.
Secular thinkers believe that government is the god-like power that will, by legislation and administration, bring about world peace. They might call it the defeat of evil if they recognized that evil is at the root of the absence of peace, but secularists believe that lack of government rather than the presence of evil is the reason that there is no peace. Christians know that evil will only be defeated by subversive living, by living in submission to the will and power of God. Christians pray, “Thy kingdom come,” knowing that the reality of the kingdom is God’s indwelling presence in the person of the Holy Spirit in each Christian. It is that reality that establishes citizenship in God’s kingdom, not the vote of the church or any other ritual that makes a person a member of a church.
Here is a tough truth: people can join a local church without becoming citizens of God’s kingdom. Such members do not really think of God as the supreme power and authority in their lives. They have not really let go of Satan’s agenda. They don’t really want to be different from the world around them. Let’s face it: something is terribly wrong if a person is a member of a church but retains his loyalty to Satan’s kingdom. What exactly does such a person mean when he prays, “Thy kingdom come?” How will God’s kingdom shape up on earth if all God’s subjects claim dual citizenship?
Secular thinkers scorn the Christian teaching that Christ’s commands and teachings take priority over government and culture. They say that Christians are asking for “privilege” to disobey laws of the state and that they are “discriminating” when they reject cultural mantras. Yet this is what Christ wants of his kingdom people: to do the Spirit-led, subversive things. God’s kingdom is not advanced by top-down agendas and programs. God’s kingdom moves forward in one person’s discovery that he can forgive his neighbor or one person’s willingness to spread his own warm coat over a shivering sleeper on the street.
God’s kingdom does not advance in a mass march forward in assault on Satan’s demons. God’s kingdom advances one simple kingdom act at a time. Each time one person receives Christ, Satan’s kingdom of evil takes a step backward. The kingdom of God has come near in Christ and in every Spirit-filled Christian. The march against evil is the way God’s kingdom moves forward. Believe it. Live it.