Jesus met a man on the Sabbath who needed healing. The Pharisees gathered around Him to see if He would dare violate their rules in order to have mercy on a poor, suffering soul. He looked with sadness at the hardness of their hearts, then healed the man. He dared.
“Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:6
There are two institutions that are directly opposed to the work of Jesus and His kingdom: Religion and government. The kingdom of God is the most subversive movement in the history of mankind, because it stands as a threat to both.
Most of us know the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. These leaders were so immersed in their own religion, so intoxicated by their own power over others, that Jesus’ work was viewed by them as a direct threat. Why? Because He operated outside of the neat little box in which they had placed God. THEY were the experts in who God was and how He worked. THEY were the voice of right and wrong, based on their own interpretation of the rules. Jesus didn’t operate with deference to their authority. He healed on the Sabbath, spoke words of mercy to the sinners, and had the audacity to forgive sins.
Many of us may not know the Herodians. Little is know of this group, other than the fact that they were a religious sect and political party. It is thought that they used support of Herod as a means to usher in theocracy. Some scholars think they even presented Herod as the Messiah in order to establish his political power. Jesus’ pure teaching about the Kingdom of God would have stood in direct opposition to their political aspirations.
The Kingdom, it turns out, is a threat to just about everyone.
Those who operate in the Kingdom seek humility and not power. Those who live in the kingdom serve the poor instead of sucking up to the rich. Those who live in the Kingdom experience the freedom of the Spirit instead of the rules of religion. Those whose hearts are consumed by Jesus seek His glory and not their own. The Sermon on the Mount is the most religiously and politically revolutionary teaching in history because it places the Kingdom of God directly in my heart, and outside the influence of religion or political authority.
Both religion and politics are threatened by Christ’s teaching. But there is nothing more dangerous to the Kingdom than when the two combine together. There can only be one end to the mixing of politics and religion, and that is death to Jesus. Entanglement with religion, politics, or both simply chokes out the true work of Christ. And just like the Pharisees and Herodians, those who choose His Kingdom choose to operate outside the scope of either, and dissidents must be eliminated. In the early days of the church, these two groups joined forces to kill the followers of Jesus, just like they did Him. Jesus’ warning, “They hated Me and they will hate you too” turned out to be deadly accurate.
And so it is today.
Those who choose not to submit to religion are deemed troublemakers. Those who choose to ignore the political climate of the day are labeled as liberals. Those who seek the Kingdom instead of earthly power or wealth are viewed as irresponsible.
The problem with the world today will not be fixed by more religion or more law. It won’t be fixed by a political or Herodian messiah. And it certainly won’t be fixed by a mixture of the two. The problems that surround us will only be repaired when those who follow Christ understand that the Kingdom He established transcends religion, government, and any other contrivance of man. His Kingdom on earth is not established at His return. It was established at His resurrection, then turned over to His body the church to fill the whole earth.
How could a Kingdom whose sole commandment was to love on another become so filled with condemnation and judgment? How could a Kingdom whose sole duty is care for the poor so abdicate our calling? It is because we have forsaken that Kingdom for our own.
Until His people abandon the ways of religion and government in favor of the personal, simple, revolutionary life of the Kingdom, we’ll just see more of the same. And the church of Jesus Christ will continue its slide into irrelevance and contempt in the world around us.