What is Kingdom Government?
How do we influence the government with the Kingdom of God? That is a question that regularly consumes my thought life. It is a passion of mine to figure out just what exactly a “Kingdom Government” looks like. We need to know where we are going if we wish to have forward motion.
Before we can answer this question, we need to ask a simpler question: what is government? If we don’t have a precise understanding of the nature of government, then we could have endless conversations about Kingdom Government without ever actually talking about the same thing.
In it’s simplest form, government is power. More specifically, power over the individual. A government establishes and enforces a set of laws, but the only the way that a government can influence society or enforce those laws is through coercive force. We are using “coercive” in it’s strictest sense, and Merriam-Webster defines “coercion” as “using force or threats to make someone do something.”
Coercive power is not inherently evil. In order to protect people from crime, we must use the threat of physical force as a deterrent. But this is the point: government’s only instrument to act is coercive power. More specifically, it is the power to make individuals do things like pay taxes and obey laws. The bottom line is that government is power.
Where does it get this power? How does a government morally gain power over the individual? This is extremely important to our discussion, because if if a government is going to be Kingdom, it must also be moral. Therefore, before a government can be Kingdom, it first needs to be established in a moral manner. A government established by slavery, conquest, and brutality is not moral, but wicked.
Yet, before we can ask how government morally gains the right to exert coercive power over individuals, shouldn’t first figure out how a single person morally gains power over another? Absolutely. But the problem is that no person ever has a “natural” right over another individual.
God created all people. I do not have a right to another person’s life because I did not create them. God did. Therefore He and He alone has the right to dictate people’s lives. This makes every person unequivocally equal. No power on earth has the right to violate that equality. When I attempt to do so, I have violated our equality and taken God’s place of lordship in another person’s life. I have made myself their God and their authority, and unless God explicitly states that I have the right to dictate the lives of His children, I have no claim over them. I have become like a wild beast that threatens all those around me.
The only moral way this equality can change is through self-defense. If someone makes an aggression into my life, I have the right to defend myself and reclaim what was taken. This is the one and only moral way that equality can be tipped: through defending your God-given equality from those who would seek to violate it.
Yet this would not work in normal society. Can you imagine if people were the arbiters of their own justice? For the sake of harmony and peace on the streets, it is in everyone’s best interest that we, as equal and free people, empower a third party to objectively administer the rule of law to defend our natural rights as children of God. This government can only be charged with protecting me from the aggression of others. Why would I empower a government to bully me and tell me what to do? I wouldn’t. As long as my actions do not violate the innate rights of those around me, no power on earth has the moral right to intervene in my life. Not man, not government.
This is where we are at: A moral government is one that is willingly empowered by people to protect their natural equality in relation to their fellow man. So, what does this mean for a Kingdom Government? It means that government cannot be the instrument of social change. Many well-intentioned Christians want to use the government as tool to facilitate social change in society. This is not right. We may want to change society, but we cannot use the government to do it. Otherwise the government itself will violate the God-given equality of all people.
When we force people to pay a tax to subsidize a program to help the poor, we are violating someone’s life. If any other entity came into your home and forcibly took your money, even if it was meant to help the poor, you would call it theft. Because that is what it is, theft. The government has a moral responsibility to be limited to the protection of individual rights. Otherwise it becomes the brute that violates our lives rather than protecting them.
Taxes are not theft. A legitimate government needs money in order to fund an army, police force, justice system, etc, in order to protect people’s transcendent equality and freedom. But those taxes can never morally be used for the advancement of another individual.
If we say that the good of society outways the rights of individual, we are in effect saying that some people have the right to live off of the forced acquisition of money from others. We are saying that some must work to support others. Does this not sound in principle like slavery or serfdom? The good of society can never out way the rights of the individual because society is nothing more than a collection of individuals. Charity must always be voluntary, or else it just becomes a nice word for slavery.
Furthermore, if we outlaw things that we find moral fault with, like gay marriage, but those things don’t actually violate the rights of any individuals, then we have trespassed into God’s terrain and become religious tyrants. Jesus never forced people to follow His teachings, nor ever endorsed such an action. Why then do we feel this is right for us to do it? Banning things like gay marriage are related in principle to laws that execute people for adultery in other countries.
Some point towards the Old Testament as proof that the Bible supports a government run welfare system and legislating morality. All I can say is this: Jesus is perfect theology. I am not disregarding the Old Testament, I am merely saying that we must interpret the Old Testament through the person of Jesus. Jesus never forced anyone to give to charity or endorsed forcing people to help the poor. Nor did He ever force people to obey His teachings on morality. It was always a choice for Him. Therefore, if Jesus didn’t do it, then we certainly don’t have a right to do it either.
So then, how does the Kingdom influence government? It a very real way, it can’t. The only moral government that can exist must be limited to the protection of individual rights. Otherwise some people will be sacrificed for the sake of others, and mandates will be established that have no moral grounds to exist.
The government, though invigorated by good intentions, cannot be an instrument of social change. Otherwise it will become the brute and thug that violates the lives of individuals as it wishes in order to accomplish it’s purposes. All societal change must be voluntary, and since the only tool the government can use to achieve it’s ends is coercive power, nothing it does can be voluntary. This is not how Jesus advocated social change.
Therefore, Kingdom Government is one that strictly watches over the role of government and keeps it from violating the rights of individuals, even if those individuals choose to do something with which we do not agree. It establishes and protects the rights of all people. It keeps an impartial and objective justice system. It defends its people from invasion.
The role and purpose of Kingdom politicians is ultimately the protection of their people and their right to live their lives as they see fit. Kingdom Government is the home nor the sage for social activists. It is the home for protectors and guardians. That is it. That is Kingdom Government.