Living in a democracy is far different than living in a kingdom. Agreed? In a democratic republic, we vote in our leaders and, if we don’t like them, we vote them out. Simple. However, in a true kingdom (without a parliament), people have no say in who rules; whoever occupies the royal cradle is who they end up subject to. Sometimes that works out. Nevertheless, given human nature, most of the time, not. (You know what they say: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) Still, subjects of a monarchy are often at an advantage when they become Christians. Why? Because they view Christ as a king and not an elected official.
Of course, your average American Christian would argue that point; the party line (whichever party) is, “We know Jesus is King!” Maybe. We even sing songs to that effect. But still, knowing it and acting on it are two different things entirely.
Now, to be sure, it’s not our fault that we don’t know the difference between a kingdom and a democracy. Moreover, those of us in said democracy believe that we have the advantage over a kingdom. After all, all we know of kings is that tyrant King George back in the day who taxed our tea without a thought as to what we’d drink with our crumpets. Or mad King Ludwig of German fame—proof positive that you can’t impeach a king. Or King Herod, the murderer, or King Henry the VIII, the adulterer/murderer, or King Louie XIV, the oblivious—and on and on it goes. (King Arthur, of course, was the exception, but alas… that was long ago…)
The point is this: much of the confusion for Christians is that we give lip service to the idea that we are the subjects of Christ the King but, having little understanding of the difference between a kingdom and a democracy, in our ignorance, we presume much. So—here’s a little primer on the differences:
Thing #1: Leaders. In a democracy, we elect our leaders, and those not directly elected to their positions are appointed by elected officials. This means that virtually all of our leaders in the United States are subject to We the People. In a democracy, our leaders serve us. In a kingdom, on the other hand, leaders are members of a monarchy who are born to their positions, not elected; therefore, they are not subject to any of the people. Rather, the people exist to serve the king. In terms of the Kingdom of God, this translates to this:
Christ is our king, not our president. As such, He is not subject to We the People nor can He be voted out. Period.
Is that fair? To those raised in a democracy to whom everything is about “rights,” maybe not. Which brings me to…
Thing #2: “Rights” and “Fairness.” In short, in a democracy, we have some rights. In a kingdom, we don’t. End of story. And unless and until the king decides we do have some, that will never change. Therefore, as to the above quandary regarding whether it’s “fair” that a king can’t be voted out, doesn’t matter. A kingdom concerns itself not in least with what’s fair to you or me. “Fairness,” in a kingdom, is not a doctrine. This is not to say, however, that all kings are ruthless or unfair. Christ is not, fortunately for us. Although, if He chose to be, that would be fair because “fairness,” in a kingdom, is defined entirely by what the king believes is fair. And there is no discussion about that nor is there any filibustering. In a kingdom, one protests the king’s view of fairness to one’s own peril.
Thing #3: Laws. Kingdom laws are determined the same way as kingdom “rights” and “fairness;” the king is the one who determines what the laws are and he then decrees them. Furthermore, once a king establishes a law, no one, including the king himself, can negate the law. In the Bible, we have the (unfortunate) example of King Xerxes who carelessly decreed a law that the Jewish people could be slaughtered by whoever wanted to on March 7th of some year. However, when confronted with what a stupid idea that was, even he couldn’t cancel the law; the best he could do was to issue a new decree which would give the Jewish people permission to fight back. In the Bible, God says that His Word—His laws—are established “forever”. They will never change. In a democracy, on the other hand, laws can be protested, amended and even revoked.
This particular difference between a kingdom and a democracy is the one which causes the most confusion and anger among Christians.
Some in the body of Christ think that if they don’t like a law or principle in the Word of God, they have the right to protest and/or ignore it entirely. Not so.
In a kingdom, the only real freedom we have is whether to obey the laws of the king or not. However, the consequence for disobeying the laws is always punishment, and there is no appealing that.
Thing #4: Subjects. In a democracy, We the People are called “citizens” because we are all equal members of a civil society (at least in theory). In a kingdom, people are called “subjects” because they are subject to the king, meaning that they are, essentially, at the mercy of the king. Hopefully, the king is merciful.
Among the king’s subjects are his “gentlemen-in-waiting” and, for a queen, “ladies-in-waiting”. These are the king’s and queen’s closest confidants, his/her best friends, and the ones most influential to the monarch. However, this does not mean that these nobles are equal to the king or queen; they are appointed by the monarch and can be dis-appointed as well. Their job is to “wait” upon the king or queen.
In terms of the Kingdom of God, we are Christ’s gentlemen and ladies-in-waiting. However, we are more than that; we are co-heirs with Christ; we rule and reign with Him. However—and this is key—we still wait upon Him. He is still the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we exist for His delight.
I love the tale of King Arthur because I believe he is a visible type of Christ. (History suggests he was a real Roman commander-turned-king who reigned in England, establishing Christianity, in the pagan days of the druids.) He ruled over his kingdom but he had elevated his knights to a “round table”—an outrageous concept in his day. In other words, they had equal input into his decisions. And while he had the final decision, he listened to them. They were his companions and best friends and he loved them. He was, like Christ, a benevolent king who ruled in the best interests of his subjects and friends.
In the Kingdom of God, the enigma is this: we serve in total subjectivity to Christ the King. Yet, because of who He is—a loving and benevolent king—He has chosen to elevate us to a higher position than we could ever achieve in a democracy. We are His co-heirs, His companions, His very friends.
And we are the most privileged of people to be so.