If we are to inherit the kingdom of God, we must fight no more.
A man accused of trying to overthrow a government claimed to be the citizen of a country not of this world. The conclusion was that he was out of his mind.
The judge regarded him with amusement. “This man,” he observed, “is not a threat to anybody. If anything, he is only a threat to himself.”
This is a parable of the case of Jesus. They brought him before the court of Pilate on the grounds that he was a coup-plotter seeking to overthrow Caesar. But Jesus declared: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight” (John 18:36).
Indeed, Jesus was accused of being a coup-plotter partly because he refused to be one. If you reject an invitation to be part of a coup-d’état, the conspirators may decide to eliminate you in retaliation.
The devil was the first person who tried to recruit Jesus for his coup-d’état. In the temptation in the wilderness, he offered him all the kingdoms of this world if he would join his rebellion against God. But when Jesus rejected the offer, he decided to compel him with death-threats.
The Jews also wanted to use Jesus’ miracle-working powers to overthrow Roman occupation; just as Moses used plagues to deliver their forefathers from Egyptian bondage. Therefore, they offered to make him a political-king. However, when it became clear he was not interested, they turned on him and asked that he be crucified.
But why did Jesus refuse to go along with them? Why did he not agree to lead their rebellion, use it to overthrow the ungodly Roman government and replace it with the kingdom of God? Why instead did he allow himself to be arrested and crucified?
He did this because the kingdom of God is spiritual; it is not physical. The kingdoms of this world are defended by force of arms. Therefore, kings maintain armies and fight wars. If the kingdom of God had been of this kind, Jesus would have mobilised the multitude following him. He would not have been defenseless at Gethsemane.
You cannot just send a detachment of troops to arrest President Goodluck Jonathan. At the very least, there would be a fight. Not so with the kingdom of God. It neither needs nor uses secular force to safeguard and advance its interests.
Jesus has no desire to overthrow governments. God does not establish his kingdom by orchestrating political revolutions, but by writing his beatitudes in the hearts of men (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Any resort to self-defense by Jesus would have contravened cardinal principles of the kingdom. It would also have betrayed his desire to return to the Father.
Path of life
Jesus’ decision to lay down his life is prescriptive. By promptly resurrecting from the dead, he demonstrated conclusively that once we are established in God’s righteousness, no weapon fashioned against us can prosper (Isaiah 54:14-17). He also revealed that we overcome sin by denying self, taking up our cross and following his example (Matthew 16:24-27).
That is the path of life. If we are to inherit the kingdom of God, we must fight no more. We must no longer resist evil people (Matthew 5:39). Righteousness must henceforth be our sole weapon of warfare.
This vital message is obscured by the popular misconception that Jesus died for our sins. As a result, most Christians do not even try to fulfil God’s great principle of salvation: “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). Instead, we maintain we are saved “by the completed works of Jesus.” Thus, the song-writer says: “What my father cannot do, He has done it for me.”
However, Jesus insists salvation comes by our own works. He says to the churches: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
Lambs of God
Laying down one’s life for God is the most potent weapon against sin and Satan available to man.
Jesus used what would normally spell the end of a worldly kingdom for the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Once you killed Sani Abacha, his rule was over. Once you overthrew Saddam Hussein, his regime was finished. But after they killed Jesus, his kingdom was proclaimed by his resurrection.
As a result, Jesus’ disciples finally understood that death is just sleep. Therefore, they no longer feared men. Like Jesus, they willingly gave their lives as ransoms for others (Matthew 20:27-28). Some even died for the gospel.
Thereby, they became the lambs of God who did not love their lives even unto death (Revelation 12:11).