Congratulations to the Family Windsor on the birth of an heir to the British throne! English speakers around the world continue their fascination with the United Kingdom’s royal family, including people who have long shed their formal allegiance to that throne. From a theological perspective, the persistance of royalty around the world continues to teach us important things about the Biblical message of the Kingdom of God. In The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus, my new book that launches in August (2013), I go into some detail about what I learned about kingship when I met King Letse III of Lesotho, a small kingdom surrounded by and landlocked inside of the Republic of South Africa.
Observing the public excitement in the United Kingdom over the royal birth compels me to theological reflection. Unfortunately, the kind of respect Britons pay to their royalty today in some ways seems to run contrary to the message of the Kingdom of God. Most citizens of the United Kingdom and even its former colonies and Commonwealth partners around the world like the fact that royalty persists in the British Isles. They are fascinated with the pomp and ceremony of coronations and royal weddings and the way the royal family personifies their nation to the governments and peoples of the world. But those same people would recoil in horror if Queen Elizabeth II, or a future King Charles III, or a future King William V (or whatever throne names the latter ones might assume) should try to actually rule the people.
A kingdom requires three essential elements: (1) a king or queen, (2) the rule of the monarch, and (3) subjects who submit to the rule. Some elements of monarchical rule remain intact in the United Kingdom, but the essential element of kingship—power to govern—has disappeared. We might think of modern European royalty as “decaffeinated kingship.” It looks like kingship; it carries the aroma of kingship; but it has lost its power.
Just as the subjects of the United Kingdom like having a king but deny the power thereof, so do many people in Western society treat the Kingdom of God. They like the idea of God’s existence, pay homage to God by attending church and other religious observances, they even honor God if they think it may bring some kind of benefit to their life. But they recoil at the idea of God asserting rule over their lives.
The Kingdom of God cannot exist in a decaffeinated, denatured form. Either Christ rules in our lives, or we have no place in the Kingdom. Although millions of teenaged girls in America hung posters of Prince William in their rooms in the 1990s, it did not confer upon them citizenship in the United Kingdom. In the same way, admiring Jesus without submitting to His Rule does not make us citizens of the Kingdom of God. His Kingship requires us to embrace His rule.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.