“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.”
“My kingdom is not of this world” is a relatively famous quote even by Biblical standards. And like similarly famous quotes such as “judge not lest ye be judged,” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” it’s frequently used by non-Christians and false teachers as bludgeons to pacify believers. But whereas the other two examples are wielded against Christian morality in general, “My kingdom is not of this world” is increasingly being wielded against Christian Nationalism.
More and more Christians in America are waking up to the fact that religious neutrality was always a fraud used by modernists to cripple Christian influence in culture and politics. Now that one of their mightiest icons–Roe v. Wade–has finally fallen, they are all the more desperate to prevent American Christians from loving those neighbors progressives would rather murder, vivisect, and molest.
Many Christians I know are both encouraged by and excited about this victory–and by the fact that the ruling left the door open to challenge some of the other worst rulings in American history. So naturally, the anti-Christians had to try and throw water on it. “Woah there, don’t celebrate this victory lest you hurt the feelings of the defeated!” “Stop all the chest-beating! Those tiny lives Christians have saved are worthless unless you implement my entire political program!”
But there is also a renewed effort to back Christians away from fruitful political action in general, and a lot of it centers around the sentiment aroused by misusing “My kingdom is not of this world.” They say that because Christ said this, kingdoms of this world don’t matter. Neither do any actions taken on behalf of their peoples. Who cares if America is conquered by China or ruled by a demented and corrupt traitor? The Kingdom of Heaven will go on regardless, so go ahead an lay down your arms in the face of earthly enemies. Resistance to tyranny would be impious of you. If your level of interest ever rises beyond passing or your determination ever exceeds half-assed, it just shows that you’ve made an idol of politics and must repent!
But Jesus’ words to Pilate were never meant to require a pious nihilism of his faithful. He is not saying that these earthly struggles against evil in our lands are of no significance. And he is certainly not telling us to abandon political vocations which he himself has given us. So what does Jesus mean, then?
When Jesus began his ministry, the devil tempted him by offering him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory–all the authority that Adam had ceded to Satan in the Fall. Christ refused. But it would not have been a temptation at all if the kingdoms of this world were of no concern to Jesus. Rather, he would not reclaim Satan’s kingdom by becoming his vassal; he would instead reclaim it as a conqueror even at the cost of his own life: casting out the prince of this world and redeeming his subjects for himself.
Christ’s kingdom is the kingdom of heaven. Not being of this world means it was never under the devil’s worldly purview. It’s not a temporal government like Rome or Persia vying against similar powers to control some part of the Earth for a short time. It’s a heavenly government about to reclaim the entire thing from above for all eternity. It does so not by force of arms, but by Christ redeeming the fallen human race with his blood and making us subjects of heaven through the proclamation of this good news. And where the kingdom of heaven conquers, Satan retreats. That’s why sicknesses are healed and demons cast out wherever Christ went. And that’s why we, as his subjects, are more than conquerors through him.
This is a great comfort in the face of earthly defeats–of which we all suffer many. No nation is perfect, and every civilization falls eventually. But none of these failures can truly defeat us because our ultimate victory has already been won. On the contrary, even Satan’s furor cannot help but serve you in the end, for all things work together for good for those who love God.
This comfort is not, however, an excuse to neglect our vocations. For in the same conversation with Pilate, Jesus also tells him that he would have no authority at all if it weren’t given to him from above. In other words, heaven itself is interested enough in earthly politics to grant governing authority. Paul likewise reminds us that the machinations of earthly government are God’s means of avenging those who are wronged commending those who are right. And the Fourth Commandment, which establishes all earthly government by means of the family is the first to come with a promise–that it may be well with us and we may live long in the land. As scandalous as that may sound to some–that living long in this fallen world is a blessing–that is what God has told us. Who are we to believe otherwise?
Scripture never instructs us to be disinterested in or aloof from those responsibilities. On the contrary, God explicitly instructs us to carry them out as though we were serving Christ himself. Because when it comes to our vocations, serving Christ is exactly what we’re doing.
Those who seek to undermine Christian action in the world (or excuse their own negligence) call this devotion to Christ idolatry. They often do the same thing with marriage, the first command God ever gave to mankind. So why not do it with civil governance as well? Do not let them deceive you. Devotion to Christ through your vocations is not idolatry. Neither is loving your vocations, being excited about your vocations, or treating your vocations as important in word and deed. How can subjects of the kingdom of heaven avoid such mindsets when it comes to serving our king?
So don’t neglect your responsibilities. The kingdom of heaven has appointed you to serve in some capacity within a kingdom on earth. Both kingdoms have therefore been given to you. Christian fathers, you have been given a measure of authority in this world for a blessed purpose. Wield it well. Wield it for your family. Wield it as a Christian above all else. Christian Americans, you have been given a measure of authority and influence in your nation. Wield it well. Wield it for your people. Wield it as a Christian above all else. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking that being aloof or disinterested in your work is pious–even when the devil misuses Scripture to that end.
Don’t be above the fray God calls you to. Be in it.