In Chapter 1, Boyd described the Kingdom of the Sword – which is the way that governments and political bodies act. They use force (military and police) to impose their will on others. Their victims are forced to comply, regardless of whether they want to or not.
Chapter 2 of Boyd’s book contrasts the Kingdom of the Sword with the Kingdom of the Cross. Boyd makes an extensive argument from the New Testament that Christians should be concerned with loving, praying for, and serving their neighbors, even their enemies, rather than imposing their will on them. In other words, this is a Kingdom that functions as Jesus did in going to the cross, giving up self-interest out of love, rather than using strength and force to impose self-interested agendas on those who are weaker.
The critical point here is that the methodology and objective of the Kingdom of the Cross is completely different. It seeks to redeem others through love. “God,” he says, “places himself under us, despite our sin, to save us and transform us into the image of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the ‘power over’ mindset that characterizes the kingdom of the world.”
From my standpoint, Boyd’s analysis is clearly lacking in a sense of social justice (that is, God’s love for the oppressed and his call to heal the oppressed rather than continue to act as oppressor). Likewise, its not well integrated in the the Old Testament’s call to Israel to be faithful to its covenant to be a light to the nations. Nevertheless, Boyd does do a great job of taking some pretty basic New Testament principals that just about any evangelical will agree with and making a case that Christians should not be about forcing their way onto other people.
At the end of the chapter, Boyd contrasts the two kingdoms. This was very helpful to me. Here are the points he makes:
- Trust: The kingdom of the world trusts in the sword, but the kingdom of God trusts in the power of the cross.
- Aims: The kingdom of the world seeks to control behavior, while the kingdom of God seeks to transform lives from the inside out.
- Scope: The kingdom of the world is “tribal” (i.e, each group seeks out and defends its own interest), while the kingdom of God is “universal.” (I’m sure its an accident that he used this word, but his use of the world suggests something very important to me – even if we aren’t all universalists from an ultimate-salvation standpoint, we should all be universalists in practice – that is, we should assume that God is seeking to redeem all people and love them as such).
- Responses: The kingdom of the world functions under the law of retribution – if you hurt me than I’ll get you back. But the kingdom of God seeks to turn the other cheek when it is wronged.
- Battles: The kingdom of the world sees its enemy as any group that isn’t part of my tribe/nation/political party. The kingdom of God, however, prays for its enemies, while fighting a spiritual battle against the forces that keep this world enslaved to sin.
Up next: Boyd discusses the need to keep the kingdom of God holy. For him, this means maintaining distance from and a healthy skepticism about government.