Jesus on Civil Government and Kingdom Leadership

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Jesus draws contrast between the patterns, principles, and politics of governments and the leadership of His kingdom that will have the greater influence upon them when the Ecclesia functions properly.

The kings of the non-Jews lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’

The term “lord” is a dominion word, and God ordains human and social governments as His servants to be a terror to evil and protect nations from chaos or the tyranny of those with the most strength and power. This pattern isn’t a pattern of His kingdom leadership but it is a pattern of social government that protects people because this government has “a sword.”

Those who have authority over them are titled “do-gooders” as a way of recognizing them as a source and resource for the society. In this sense, we understand that when a government is given dominion over people to “lord” it over them with authority, the people end up seeing that government as their source and resource.

Jesus then says, “But this isn’t how you will govern, exercise authority or dominion. Instead, the greatest should become like the youngest and the leader like a servant.”

In this context of contrasting leadership paradigms, Jesus makes it clear that the purpose of leadership in the kingdom isn’t the same as the purpose of government in the ethos, the nations. What His kingdom is accomplishing fulfills a different purpose, a higher purpose, and functions with a higher principle, practice, and pattern (without politics).

First, Jesus isn’t making a statement about ideal social government. He isn’t espousing that elite or royal leaders should be the standard of God for civil government in any way. He is simply noting the contrast between the existing forms of civil government with which His generation and disciples are familiar as a basis for contrasting that with His kingdom government.

Second, Jesus is absolutely clear that His kingdom has leadership with influence and impact at a cultural level, that leaders are part of the kingdom strategy, and that these leaders are not a source and resource for His people in the sense of controlling them or “lording” over them in their function.

So, beware the insidious conclusion that Jesus loves tyranny and despotic civil governments or opposes civil freedom! Beware the ridiculous assumption that Jesus is a socialist or communist, or that Jesus can’t wait for people to become dependent upon centralized government control through which every citizen gets what he needs from government. [Super duh!]

Do grasp firmly upon the concept that Jesus intends for His kingdom to have strong, functional leaders and that these leaders function from a contrasting paradigm of principles, patterns, and practice because they fulfill a different purpose.

Jesus recognizes that when people see government as source and resource and the king as their “benefactor,” they are lorded over by those who control them with government authority. He doesn’t say that’s ideal or good or wholesome at all. In fact, what He says is that His kingdom leadership should function differently so they influence and impact culture with a whole different spirit!

Jesus never endorses a theocracy that functions through a king to rule over societies or a pope to rule with lording over people authority as His representative on earth. He doesn’t say that the condition in which Israel says, “Give us a king like the other nations” is a great way to develop culture.

Nor does He espouse some sublime serendipity and serenity with syrupy slush on it that says we all need to mimic Gandhi and be a passive pimple on society in order to be good leaders.

Note the words of Jesus about Paul that put His purpose for the apostle into a proper context for the prophetic declaration over his life: “He is My chosen instrument or vessel to carry and deliver My Name [authority] before the nations, kings, and Israel’s children.”

Jesus had something in mind for His representative leaders that would have influence upon the nations, and His concept of kingdom leadership would have a powerful, positive, principled, and purposeful impact upon how civil government function. He didn’t think it the political climate, practice of government, or pattern of leadership in any nation, at any time, mattered to how His kingdom would function to influence and impact that culture with His authority, power, and leadership function.

So, the idea that we should surrender kingdom principles in America in order to blend in with push toward socialism, “a way of implementing the teaching of Jesus,” is so radically inaccurate that it is insulting to a person who listens to Jesus instead of fitting His words into their presuppositions to produce a liberal approach to “church” or “Christians.” Further, the idea that the Ecclesia should ignore the culture in favor of constructing a subculture slaps His intentions in the face, changes the definition of ekklesia, and produces a very different version of leadership and leadership function inconsistent with that of Jesus Himself and His design and definition for leadership in the kingdom today.

Jesus leaves no room for the idea that the Ecclesia isn’t part of the kingdom. When we separate kingdom from church or church from kingdom, we end up with a faulty design and definition for church unrecognizable in the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Revelation. Stop looking for a cave and a bag of beans, a way to shield your children from their preparation and positioning to represent Heaven on earth, and some form of church-anity that either blends into the culture instead of confronting it or hides from the culture as if kingdom leadership simply sits around waiting upon His return.

Don Lynch

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