light

The Radically Distinct Kingdom of God

Yesterday, we posted a video where Greg mentioned the radical distinction between the kingdom of God and the governments of the world. The following explains this distinction further.


Nothing is more important to the cause of the kingdom of God than actually living out a Christlike vision of the kingdom. Or to put it in another way, nothing is more important than keeping the kingdom of God distinct from the kingdom of the world. We do this both in our thinking and in our acting. To keep holy means set apart, consecrated, and distinct.

Not everything about the kingdom of the world is bad. Insofar as versions of the world use their power of the sword to preserve and promote law, order and justice, they are good. But the kingdom of the world, by definition can never be the kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter that we judge it good because it stands for the principles we deem righteous. No version of the kingdom of the world, however comparatively good it may be, can protect its self-interests while loving its enemies, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, or blessing those who persecute it.

Yet loving our enemies and blessing those who persecute us is precisely what kingdom-of-God citizens are called to do. It’s what it means to be Christian. By definition, therefore, you can no more have a Christian worldly government than you can have a Christian petunia or aardvark. A nation may have noble ideals and be committed to just principles, but it’s not for this reason Christian.

This distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world entails that a kingdom-of-God citizen must never align any particular version of the kingdom of the world with the kingdom of God. We may firmly believe one version to be better than another, but we must not conclude that this better version is therefore closer to the kingdom of God than the worse version.

If we think in this fashion, we are comparing apples with oranges, and Calvary with petunias and aardvarks.

Now, a vision of the kingdom of the world that effectively carries out law, order, and justice is indeed closer to God’s will for the kingdom of the world. Decent, moral people should encourage this as much as possible, whatever their religious faith might be.

But no version of the kingdom of the world is closer to the kingdom of God than others because it does its job relatively well. For God’s kingdom looks like Jesus, and no amount of sword-wielding, however just it may be, can ever get a person, government, nation, or world closer to that.

The kingdom of God is not an ideal version of the kingdom of the world. It’s not something that any version of the kingdom of the world can aspire toward or be measured against. The kingdom of God is a completely distinct, alternative way of doing life.

—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Nation, pages 53-55

Photo credit: Eyesplash – Summer was a blast, for 6 million view via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Related Reading

Caught Between Two Conflicting Truths

In my previous blog I tried to show that adopting a “Christocentric” approach to Scripture isn’t adequate, as evidenced by the fact that people adopting this approach often come to radically different conclusions. In fact, it seems to me that the “Christocentric” label is often close to meaningless inasmuch as it doesn’t meaningfully contrast with anything. If a “Christocentric”…

Should Christians Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

A number of years ago I attended a basketball game at a Christian school. Just before the game everyone was asked to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. So I stood, placed my hand over my heart, and began to recite our national creed. Halfway through, however, I began to wonder what I was…

Is Non-Violence a Key to Christian Discipleship?

For the first three centuries of the church, Christians understood that forgoing the use of violence and expressing God’s self-sacrificial love was central to discipleship. However, this mindset changed after the Church acquired power in the fourth century. Entire theological systems have been developed to support the use of coercive power. However, contrary to that…

As We Approach the 4th

zen Sutherland via Compfight This is the time of year when we start hearing loud bangs at night and you have to ask yourself the following multiple choice question: Was that bang: a car backfiring? firecrackers? a gunshot? (OK, maybe most of you never think of that, but some of us do.)   It’s also…

Jesus Said, “Buy a sword.” What did he mean?

Yesterday, I challenged the common assumption that Jesus was violent when he drove out the animals and turned over tables in the Temple courts. (See post.) Today I want to look at the second episode some site to suggest Jesus wasn’t totally opposed to violence. It takes place just before Jesus and his disciples leave…

Why do some of Jesus’ parables depict God in violent ways?

Greg deals with the question of what it means that some of Jesus’ parables seem to depict God in violent terms. In addition to getting an answer to this question you’ll be treated to a window into Greg’s graceful way of moving through the world. Really classy. Enjoy!