How do you get revelation when reading about American politics? Well, you wouldn't have thought it. But I was reading The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Greg Boyd (a courageous challenge to his fellow American Christians that they were guilty of political and nationalistic idolatry) nearly two years ago. As I read the first three chapters, I was just hit with a fresh perspective on the kingdom of God that made me weep. I wasn't changing my fundamental theological position but there was a shift in perspective that is still proving to be life transforming. We have to first understand that the Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). It is God's different kingdom. But the church has often imitated the world. When it comes to authority, the way of the world is about what Boyd calls 'power over' people. It is the power of the sword - ultimately about intimidation and coercion. The way of the kingdom is about 'power under' people. It is the power of the cross - it's about selfless, servant-like, sacrificial love. Its power and authority is one that is willing to die in order that others might be powerful. The connection between the cross and the kingdom just hit me with fresh force.
Although we may have taught and held up the principle of servant leadership, our practice has too often defaulted to the way of the world. Even when this has not manifested directly in intimidation (and too often it has done that in subtle and not so subtle ways) it is expressed in an understanding of authority that is essentially hierarchical - its concern is with who's in charge rather than who can I serve?
This has set me on a journey of re-evaluating my understanding of authority and power, government and leadership that still continues today. My next few posts will have more to say on this.