Definition of empire
1a(1): a major political unit having a territory of great extent or a number of territories or peoples under a single sovereign authority
especially : one having an emperor as chief of state
(2): the territory of such a political unit
b: something resembling a political empire
especially : an extensive territory or enterprise under single domination or control
Definition of kingdom
1: a politically organized community or major territorial unit having a monarchical form of government headed by a king or queen
a: the eternal kingship of God
b: the realm in which God’s will is fulfilled
3a: a realm or region in which something is dominant
a cattle kingdom
b: an area or sphere in which one holds a preeminent position
The office was his own private kingdom
In the lexicon of the Christian Church, many people use the term kingdom to define the expanse of the reach of God in the Earth. We promote the necessity of spreading the Gospel that people may come into a relationship with the Creator. We also intend that people would spread that message to those seeking a transformative encounter with the Almighty. The hope is that the transformative experience with Christ will compel others to spread the message of Good News to the masses.
While that basic premise is a necessary motivation, we must consider for a moment the line of demarcation that we approach with this mentality. It is possible that the genuine desire of many believers is to get the Gospel to everyone. Yet, some individuals see the mission as a vehicle to attach trailers of a different mentality for the journey.
For many centuries, the clarion call to Christ has been associated with various aspects of contrary beliefs. While people are trying to advance the Kingdom of our Christ, some persons have (in many instances) adopted a mentality of the empire. Most people may not know that there is a difference between a kingdom and an empire.
In the beginning of this piece, I offered dictionary definitions as a backdrop for context. Permit me a moment to take the concepts a little further. The concept of the empire allows an indoctrination of domination. An emperor is motivated by the need to spread colonized ideas of his or her philosophy. The ingraining of this concept breaks up the strength of an individuals identity.
If my generalization is true, the goal of the empire is to raise a singular idea by any means necessary. People be damned. Culture be rejected. The empire must be raised high. Commitment to the empire and its ideas grants access to the distinction of being a citizen. That’s right! Citizenship is freely given to those dedicated to the project of colonizing people mind, body, environment, and spirit.
The Apostle Paul was not just the writer of two thirds of the accepted New Testament text, but Paul was also a citizen of the Roman Empire. His ability to spread the Gospel was under the privilege of citizenship. Citizenship required the empire to protect the citizen at all cost due to their allegiance. Paul was able initially to move with impunity because of this level of privilege.
In scripture, we generally attribute two major moments to the life of Paul. One, he is seen as a different man who was apart of the chastisement and eventual lynching of Stephen. The deacon spoke with clarity to the Sanhedrin court about their unjust participation in silencing the masses, perpetuating oppressive religious activity, and aligning with the empire in word and practice. Stephen was carried out and stoned to death for speaking truth to power. The one holding the coats was Saul. He was in agreement with such action. He stood with privilege and affirmed the murder of an innocent man. No punishment for those knew that murder was sinful. It was an act to maintain the supremacist idea of the empire.
Two, we see Paul (Saul still) on the road disrupting the growing movement of Jesus Christ. Saul carried out legal documents to disrupt and dismantle organizing people bound by common belief and brought together by the Holy Spirit. The desire was to eliminate all who were advance different idea of what live and hope looked like.
While traveling with destructive motives, God stops this man’s progression by taking his sight. He was now quarantined in the home of a man named Ananias. This gentleman heard God’s voice and brought in this agent of the empire to heal from his affliction. Please understand that Ananias was not in favor of bringing in Saul. The reputation was known. The agenda was understood.
Yet, God said something quite interesting to Ananias. Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. (Acts 9:15-16) God was placing Saul in a position to make a decision about his life. This quarantine moment cause Saul to confront his inadequacies to be converted from his allegiance to the empire. Saul placed his persona down to gain new identity as Paul to serve only Kingdom interests.
The idea of kingdom focuses on commonality of a people. The people have a monarch with the soul purpose of growing and making their region better. A kingdom is not an expansive area. It is a very focused, compact region for those who ascribe to the culture, law, and rule of said area. In a kingdom, everyone is a citizen with the opportunity to see and participate in the betterment of its ideals.
By this logic, Paul’s conversion was treasonous. He no longer could defend the ideology of the empire. He began to encounter the painful nature of the colonizing people. He began to witness the tragic fall out of keeping people in bondage to oppressive theology. He became the target of ire when participating in the project of liberation. The very nature of following the Will of God made Paul a public enemy.
When we make the conscious, informed decision to carry out the mission of the Kingdom of God, we subject ourselves to forfeiting our privileges held under empire rule. We can’t cover ourselves from conflict. We can’t take our ball and go home when things do not go our way. We are not able to simply function in our predetermined lane with oppressors. We are no longer tolerable to the empire. We become public enemies.
I believe that is why the empire of 2020 is finding significant cracks in its structure. People realize that their previous citizenship only guaranteed benefits based on the success of colonized practices. Too many people see that commission pay is only good for great salespersons not civil rights. People now understand that equality with provision is not truly equality. Equality without admission of a 400 year headstart is not equality. It is missed payment in arrears. It is cheap purchases of life with instant equity for the oppressor. It is the call to collect in full with interest.
Empires crumble when the people realize the price to be paid for minor protections. Empires crumble when people understand that nothing is worth selling out the beauty, uniqueness, and power of your individuality. God can use the formerly imprisoned minds and souls of converted empire citizens. I believe that they need to be in a place to be quietly confronted by their thoughts, actions, and alignment with the empire. I believe that God must speak to them and raise the question, Why are you persecuting me?
Well look what we have here? 2020. A quarantine. Protests. I hear systems breaking. The Kingdom is rising now….