Still seeking restoration of ‘our’ kingdom
“Lord, at this time are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” — Acts 1:6 (NIV).
In spite of over three years of constant personal teaching from the Lord, plus another 40-day post-resurrection seminar on the Kingdom of God, the disciples still managed to miss the main point of Christ’s teaching.
They still had Jesus locked into a “this world” perspective. They were looking for political solutions to the oppression under which they had been suffering. They believed their issues were due to the domination of an ungodly and aggressive foreign government. Removing Roman rule and restoring the Jewish theocracy seemed to be their idea of “heaven.”
When Jesus was crucified their hopes were dashed. But when he was resurrected, so were their misplaced hopes. As Cleopas and his companion explained on the road to Emmaus, “We had hoped he (Jesus) was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)
The disciples were victims of their own mistaken certainties. Because of their national and racial prejudice, they arrogantly assumed that the whole ministry of the Son of God was about some sort of political power play. They did not understand the cosmic nature of God’s redemption plan.
Jesus’ response to his disciples was basically to say, “Never mind about that; here’s what I want you to do.”
The mission he was leaving to them was a whole lot bigger than what they had imagined. The disciples were going to need the power and direction of the Holy Spirit in order to make disciples of all the nations, not just theirs.
Invariably God’s plans are much bigger than ours in the same manner that his ways and thoughts are. Left to ourselves we would reduce God into our supreme servant whose basic function is to bless us and our little plans at all times, including our political ones.
After two thousand years I’m not sure his disciples have changed a whole lot. We are still asking the Lord whether he is going to restore our “kingdom” at this time.
After a bitter national election many Christians are lamenting the fact that our country is morally going down the drain. Somehow the Christian foundation upon which the United States was established is eroding rapidly. It feels like America has lost her way, and we now long for the good old days when we were a “Christian” nation.
I believe it is true that America is exceptional in her founding and has been relatively noble in her endeavors over the years. Our forefathers sought to establish a righteous nation based primarily on biblical principles and which afforded maximum freedom to its citizens.
Having said that, I would never agree that our nation was ever truly “Christian” in the first place. At her inception the ungodly institution of slavery was accepted as part of our identity. This abomination mocked the ideal that ALL men were created equal with an inalienable right to God-given freedoms. The resulting hypocrisy became a curse that eventually almost destroyed America. We suffer the consequences of its unrighteousness to this very day.
Likewise, our deceitful mistreatment of the original Americans was a lot less than Christian. What biblical principle was guiding our government while property was being systematically confiscated and whole tribes officially displaced to make room for a more “civilized” people to occupy?
All this was somehow sanctified by a pseudo-religious doctrine called “Manifest Destiny.” It was supposedly God’s will for the white man to occupy and rule everybody else by whatever means necessary.
The point of this reflection is not to criticize my country or in any way detract from her glory. What happened speaks for itself. Where our nation sinned and came short of the glory of God is, retrospectively, obvious.
I am a true patriot, but I am neither blind nor completely stupid. I would not like my country restored to a time when “Christian” included toleration of the arrogant and unrighteous mis-application of freedoms and equalities.
I want to see the Kingdom of God and righteousness that transcends all worldly nations to become manifest in my time, in my homeland.
This past election and the ramifications that will follow — the good, the bad, or the ugly — all pale in the light of God’s ultimate purposes.
We cannot count on the strength and wisdom of men, even good ones, for answers that solve our real problems. Politics, in spite of its bold promises, will always offer temporary and incomplete solutions that are administered by fragile humans who will eventually fail us.
We desperately need to grasp the fact that we, as Christians, are a part of something much larger and more significant than a human nation.
Our patriotism needs to be enlarged to include the whole world. We serve the King of all creation, not just the Lord of America.
We are citizens, first and foremost, of the Kingdom of God. Not only are we citizens, but we are also ambassadors, official messengers and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
We are empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit to make disciples of ALL nations, not just our own. We have our work cut out for us. It’s time to get busy!
As we celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving, let us be truly grateful for the many blessings and mercies we regularly enjoy. May we also remember to pray for the millions of poor in this world who suffer hunger and disease on a daily basis.
The Lord be with you.
[Dr. LeRoy F. Curtis has served as a missionary in Africa and has pastored local churches. He lives with his wife Judy and family in Peachtree City. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]