Boyd begins Chapter 3 (Keeping the Kingdom Holy) by pointing out that there is no need to be confused: the differences between the Kingdom of the World and the Kingdom of the Cross are so stark that it is perfectly obvious when something is of one or the other. In a world full of violence, it isn’t difficult to identify the people who are constantly working toward peace and redemption and those who are out for themselves. This is, in fact, how God is known in the world: the community that God has called for his purpose manifests his love to others.
It is important, then, to maintain such distinctiveness, Boyd argues. We may deem certain values or goals of the kingdom of the world as laudible (for example, “liberty and justice for all”), but no matter how “comparatively good” it may be, such a kingdom will never go about turning the other cheek, loving others sacrificially, etc. Thus, one should never think that their government, party, political system of choice, etc. is aligned with the kingdom of God.
The appropriate stance for Christians to take with respect to government – any government – is one of distance and suspicion. We never place undue trust in any system of politics or government or in any political party because “the kingdom-of-God citizen knows that the world is not going to be fundamentally transformed by the…use of the sword.” In fact, we should be aware that no matter how good our “version” of the kingdom of the world may be, it is ultimately part of the problem. Why? Because “[e]very version of the kingdom of the world defends itself and advances its causes by rallying the self-interest of its citizens into a collective tribal force that makes each citizen willing to kill and be killed for what it believes to be the good of society.” Thus, it demonizes its enemies to generate motivation for hatred and to convince those who kill that their cause is righteous. Such an “us-them” mentality is, at its core, not of God.
Boyd follows with examples from Jesus’ life in which Jesus refused to be drawn into the “us-them” mentality that characterizes political and social conflict. I was particularly pleased to see the reference to Luke 12 – a text in which Jesus refused to become involved in a civil dispute between brothers – on the grounds that he is not going to be a judge of such matters. This text was an important signpost for me early during my career, and it helped me to put my line of work into good perspective during the embryonic days of my law practice.
The chapter concludes by pointing out that Christians have lost their way when they become overly enthusiastic about political issues. Here, he makes two points:
1. Conservatives and liberals should have no problem co-existing within the church because – while they may hold differing opinions on political issues – those issues should not ultimately be judged as terribly important. He gives the example of Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector – people from opposite political viewpoints – serving together as disciples of Jesus.
2. Perhaps the reason Christians become so enthusiastic about kingdom-of-the-world politics, while remaining apathetic about kingdom-of-the-cross affairs is because the way of the cross is just plain hard:
Its hard to communicate to a prostitute her unsurpassable worth by taking up a cross for her, serving her for years, gradually changing her on the inside, and slowly winning the trust to speak into her life (and letting her speak into our life, for we too are sinners)….It is much easier, and more gratifying, to assume a morally superior stance and feel good about doing our Christian duty to vote against “the sin of prostitution.” Perhaps this explains why many evangelicals spend more time fighting against certain sinners in the political arena than they do sacrificing for those sinners.
Up next: Boyd provides a brief history on how Christianity became corrupted by political power.