In the parable of Luke 19 there is a man who goes off to a foreign country to receive a kingdom. He leaves others in charge while he is gone. They are to rule over the finances that he has given them with wisdom and shrewdness. At the end of the parable, the man returns to receive those who he left behind and their increase. As a result of their care, they are put as rulers over cities in the man’s kingdom.
This parable is about Jesus. Jesus has come to earth, given His people a commission, then returned to heaven to receive a kingdom. Our commission is to win people’s hearts to Christ’s kingdom. Think of yourself as an exile or ambassador in a foreign land. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 1 Corinthians 5:20
This is why Christ was focused on changing people’s hearts in a spiritual way. This is why He didn’t set up a kingdom on earth. He told Pilate when He was being accused of insurrection, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36 The only place that Christ’s kingdom exists on earth is in our hearts, our minds, and our relationships, “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20, 21
It is becoming popular to be an activist in our world today. People want to make a difference in other’s lives…physically. They see injustice and they seek to fix the injustice by compassion on the person and a zealous pursuit of legislation that will change the situation permanently. Believe it or not, a lot of this culture has risen as the result of an intense evangelical effort to push the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. The idea that you can begin living heaven on earth now is as easy to find as a google search for “books about the kingdom of heaven on earth”.
“But today in the religious world there are multitudes who, as they believe, are working for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ as an earthly and temporal dominion. They desire to make our Lord the ruler of the kingdoms of this world, the ruler in its courts and camps, its legislative halls, its palaces and market places. They expect Him to rule through legal enactments, enforced by human authority. Since Christ is not now here in person, they themselves will undertake to act in His stead, to execute the laws of His kingdom. The establishment of such a kingdom is what the Jews desired in the days of Christ. They would have received Jesus, had He been willing to establish a temporal dominion, to enforce what they regarded as the laws of God, and to make them the expositors of His will and the agents of His authority. But He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. He would not accept the earthly throne.” (Desire of Ages see below)
Here is my question to you: Are you trying to make America (or whatever nation you are from) Christ’s kingdom?
Peter and Daniel tell us that this earth and the kingdoms of this world will be destroyed. This is good news considering that America in Revelation 13 is a dragon under cover of the lamb. The idea of heaven on earth may sound nice, but it wasn’t at all the example of Christ, and it is only nice for those that aren’t suffering from extreme poverty, illness, disease, rape, murder, distress, etc. Those people need the hope of Christ and His Kingdom IN Heaven where all of that will be wiped away and people will be healed and renewed.
“The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,—extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart.” (Desire of Ages see below)
The activism that Christ is calling men to is to spread the legislation that is already in place in the heavenly kingdom. We must be active in our implementation of that legislation and directing hopeless eyes toward the hope of Christ and a future. Be compassionate upon those who are in need and neglected, but then point them to heaven where Freedom Rings! Point them to the city that is never dark and whose light blazes with the light of the lamb and God himself.
This is actually what made the experiences of the most faithful people of scripture unique. They didn’t identify themselves as being citizens of some earthly kingdom, but they saw themselves as pilgrims passing through. They believed in a heavenly city, and they found their calling as ambassadors or exiles in enemy territory. Their mission was to faithfully point people to God’s kingdom where He will wipe away every tear, and heal all illnesses and disease, and put right all the wrongs that have been committed. (Hebrews 11 and Revelation 21-22)
So what does that mean for how we choose to be political activists while here on earth? Should we try to make a difference in the legislative halls in the countries that we live in? Are we called to ignore the methods of democracy and focus on comforting people in their distress, rather than permanently fixing their needs legislatively? Does Christ’s example of being aloof from earthly governments demonstrate to us how we should act? Was Christ actually a political activist in some way? Are we not supposed to take political offices? If that is the case, where do we draw the line? Defendant but not lawyer? Lawyer but not judge? Judge but not politician? And what are the implications for rallies and marches? What about demonstrations? Occupy Washington? Or how about the way we use Facebook?
Sam and I were wrestling with these very things last night. We couldn’t agree about where to draw the line… too many questions. What we both were very certain about is that the reason or purpose for what you are doing matters the most. If you are being an activist for recognition, then its wrong. If you are doing something because its popular, then its wrong. Even if you are doing something that is right but not for the purpose of building up the Kingdom of God, then you are doing it wrong.
That is without a doubt the message that Christ preached, and the message that we want to preach at The Haystack. Become an activist building up the Kingdom of God! In your actions draw your brothers and sisters and family and friends (both real and spiritual) together. Think about how you can speak out about injustices while simultaneously building relationships even with your enemies. When Christ delivered His list of woes to the Pharisees, it was with tears in His eyes and a desire to draw them back to Him through those words. Christ was even pursuing the heart of Pilate while He was on trial. Jesus didn’t treat the rich young ruler, or Zacchaeus with rudeness. He wanted to unite their hearts with His.
I can tell you this. When I think of Dr. King, I really, truly, honestly believe that he would have accepted me through and through. I believe that he really did want to sit together enjoying a Sabbath afternoon while our children played in the yard. I hear through his words a uniting voice that draws races together while pointing people toward God’s ideal. His voice builds up the kingdom of God! In all areas of activism, this should be our hearts desire – draw all mens hearts to Christ in unity. That’s what happens when Christ is lifted up.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once delivered a famous speech. It is known, by most people, as his “I have a Dream” speech. Here are some brilliant lines:
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
I must tell you Dr. King that your dream of unity and freedom will be realized! In fact, it is guaranteed. But it probably won’t be in Mississippi, nor will it be in Georgia, nor will it be in New York. In fact, it seems that it won’t ever be fully realized in this “great” nation of America. Our problems of racism in the hearts of humanity lie too deeply rooted for any kingdom of this world to fix. Our nature is too broken to be mended by our great nation, or any great earthly nation for that matter. However, there is a kingdom where this cry will be heard echoing throughout the universe… it is the Kingdom of God! I promise you this… when that day finally comes, I will stand on the sea of glass knowing that racism has been beat. I will take up your offer to sing right next to you, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The Desire of Ages: Not With Outward Show