Is it possible that a Kingdom which was inaugurated over 2000 years ago can still be in existence and true to the vision and purpose of its founder and early citizens? If, as many historians believe, such a Kingdom was corrupted as early as within 300 years of its foundation, what chance is there that the Kingdom, in its original purity, is still functioning today?
According to the founder of the Kingdom it was with his appearance that the Kingdom was inaugurated – and later one of his followers outlined the Kingdom as marked by –
“A life of goodness and peace and joy.”
As I look today at what we call “Christianity” which claims, in general terms, to be the custodian of the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus, I find, at least in the UK, that it fails spectacularly to fulfil the requirements and marks of the founder and his early followers.
Skipping much of the history of failure, corruption and political ambition that has brought us to where we are today let me for a few moments outline the heritage which has brought us to this sorry state in Scotland.
As a child I was steeped in the hero statues of “The Covenanters” and the sacrifices they made on behalf of “Reformed Presbyterian Christianity”. However, what I do not remember being told was that, as well as being religious, the Covenanters were also a political and military movement – using both force of arms and political influence to obtain secular power. In fact the very concept of “Covenant” harked back to the Old Testament – applied now nationally, not to Israel – but to Scotland. And when that power was achieved Presbyterian Christianity began to control the population with a “big stick”. It issued judgements and carried out punishments. “Sinners” were publicly humiliated, some even ordered to wear sackcloth and appear barefoot and bareheaded. On occasions they had to walk through the streets to the church building wearing a paper hat upon which their alleged offence was written. Furthermore, with the support of the magistrate [most of whom were under the control of the church] the church authorities also carried out corporal punishment and worse. The history of such behaviour is available for all to see.
Question. Does the above bear any resemblance to the Kingdom of love, mercy, compassion and humility initiated by Jesus? Or had the Kingdom been twisted,torn and moulded beyond all recognition?
Why raise this issue at this moment in time? Simply because the spirit of 1560 lives on in 2018. I personally have known Reformed Presbyterian Christians who would gladly return to the days of 1560 – with a church in political power along with what most would consider the abuses associated with it. This is one reason I personally would never vote for a “Christian” political party. From where I am standing the Kingdom seems almost as lost now as it was then. Even amongst Christians who, for the most part, claim to follow Jesus in his love, grace and mercy, there lurks the spirit of 1560.
I have been alarmed at how many of my “Christian” friends are happy to support radical political groups and views simply because they give a nod and wink to the “Evangelical” community and the traditional values they support while at the same time overtly flying in the face of the compassion, grace, inclusivity and mercy we find in Jesus and his Kingdom.
The burning question is – how does the Kingdom respond when it is marginalised, opposed, mistreated, lied about and abused.
One of the early leaders in the Kingdom said of its founder –
“When he was verbally abused, he did not return with an insult; when he suffered, he would not threaten retaliation. Jesus faithfully entrusted himself into the hands of God, who judges righteously.”
1 Peter 2:23 (TPT)
The inference is that Kingdom citizens should follow his example – but do we?
All this is more relevant today perhaps than it has been for many years – and for this reason. In the UK we are seeing an alarming rise in anti religious, but particularly anti christian sentiment – especially in the press, TV and media in general. Alarmingly, in the last few weeks, even the Scottish Government and the Scottish Police have joined forces in what is portrayed as an “anti hate campaign” – but which is, in reality, a thinly veiled attack on those who hold to traditional values in relation to sexuality. Some of my friends are alarmed – others are offended and the question on many lips is – “How do we respond?”
That there is a time and place in a democratic society to speak out and raise concern goes, I think, without saying – and we should be grateful we have the freedom to do so. However, the question for me is how do we do that and keep to the principles outlined by The Founder of the Kingdom we claim to represent? As we have seen, the religion we call “Christianity”, in Scotland has, historically, gone far beyond this – and in so doing shown itself to be an enemy of the Kingdom rather than its defender.
I think Christians today who seek to defend what they see as traditional Christian values need to remember this and act with humility and grace in seeking to defend their position and principals. Sadly this is not always the case – and rather than attract people to their position they push them further away – not because of the truth itself – but because of their graceless behaviour.
May God give us all the strength, wisdom, grace and humility to stand in the footsteps of our Founder in these days of challenge and change.
“We can be sure that we’ve truly come to live in intimacy with God, not just by saying, “I am intimate with God,” but by walking in the footsteps of Jesus.”
1 John 2: 5&6 TPT