At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Satan came to Him with this temptation: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
Satan failed in his attempt to entice Jesus with the offer of political power, but many followers of Jesus have fallen into that trap. Even those of us who do not lust after political power ourselves are often heard to criticize our governments and tell how Christians could do the job so much better. The fallacy of this argument is that genuine Christians have never been anything but a minority in any nation. It would require the use of force to govern such a population according to Christian principles. This is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
Luke 9:54 “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”
Mark 10:42-44: “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”
The Jewish leaders did not understand the nature and spirit that would characterize Messiah. They expected Messiah to come and overthrow the Roman oppressors and that they would then reign with Messiah over his kingdom. Many Christians hold that same misunderstanding about the spirit of the followers of Messiah.
Jesus did not come to set up a political kingdom where he would brutally enforce righteousness in the manner of the Iranian Ayatollahs. He came to rule in the hearts of those who would willingly accept Him as their Lord. He loves us and wants to rule in our hearts. He wants us to love Him in return, submit our lives fully to Him, and love our neighbours as ourselves so that we can be an example to them of the righteous kingdom.
Messiah’s kingdom is not ruled by fear and force, but by love, joy and peace. This has often caused the disciples of Jesus to be oppressed and persecuted, but persecution has not destroyed their love, joy and peace, nor has it hindered the spread of Messiah’s kingdom. The greatest hindrance to the outreach of the kingdom of God is that Christianity is associated in many people’s minds with the lust for political power and the use of dubious means to gain that power.
“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This [is] the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).