The Two Kingdoms

Born in a poor man's house, not a palace

From the beginning of His time on earth, Jesus Christ rejected the power and privileges of this world. The Magi, expecting a king as foretold in the prophecies and by the splendour in the heavens, went to the palace to find Him. He wasn’t there. He was in a poor carpenter’s one-room house.

He never owned a house of His own. He didn’t settle down and raise a family. He was questioned by the authorities concerning all that He did, and He answered in authority, although He was penniless and homeless. He said it Himself: My kingdom is not of this world.

So whose world is this? Not meaning the Earth – for all of Creation is His – but the “world” of power and gain and privilege – which means private law. The world is the world of money and things bought and sold, of profit and anxiety. It is the world of wanting more, of grasping. It is the world of competition. It is Satan’s world for now.

We have to live in this world to some extent. Christ gave us the Commission to go forth, preach, prophesy and baptize. We are the good news, even if some want to shoot the messenger. We can’t live entirely out of the world, unless we are called to a kind of special ministry in that – but even the hermit monk is called to pray for those in the world.

We aren’t to fall in love with the world. We are not to accept its standards. We still live in the other Kingdom, even if we move through this present one.

This is a terrible tension in which to live. The world is beguiling. Pleasure is its promise, even though it doesn’t really deliver it. Holding that tension can destroy Christians if they wander too far from the Way of Christ.

I’m going to try to put this in words that aren’t too Christiany. The world is a harsh, terrible place. The marketplace is a a monster looking for victims. It is not a place for Christians, because we have to keep our hearts open, honest and loving. We can’t toughen up or we will miss the opportunities God sends us to help others.

This is not our kingdom, either.

I live in this tension every day. I can’t ever put off being who I am. I can’t imagine it anymore. Leave the house in jeans and my hair down, with no protection on my head? I would feel as if I were thrown into the Coliseum. I can’t go shopping all day in the mall, buying with a credit card. I would know I was out of place, and I don’t have a credit card and never will again. And what is it I need there? Ninety-eight percent of everything in the shops is trash. It is useless, it is wasteful. It will be replaced by something else in a few weeks. I can list the things I believe I will need in the next year, and none of it would be purchased in a mall. The mall, online shopping, catalogs and big box stores exist to sell worldly people things of this world.

Politicians, even though they may claim to have our interests at heart, are of this world. They owe favours to the people with money, and they have to pay them back or they won’t have campaign money next time around. Politics and government support people who want to make lots of money, who charge outrageous amounts to the taxpayer for roads, hospitals, transportation, communication and even the food we eat drugs we use. These people like luxury, like to have pots of money set aside. Money is how they keep score.

All right, I don’t get that. I have no use for huge, expensive houses or power boats or planes, or even for fine wine and food. I can’t tell the difference between the $15 VQA from Niagara and the $100 chateau-bottled vintage. I like sausage and kraut. I’m not tempted in that direction.

But if I were…as I was when I was young…I still hope I would know that it is not the life for Christians. I don’t have the right to more than my own fair share of the earth’s resources, no matter how much money I have. I don’t have the right to make a huge profit off the needs and wants of others. I have the right to a fair exchange of goods of value – so I’d better be able to do something useful. God has put me in the world for a reason, and it is to preach Christ, crucified – and risen.

So I do believe in being separated from the world, as much as I can with a good conscience. I show my separateness by the way I dress, in clothes that are not only modest but distinct. Plain is deliberately historic; it is deliberately unornamented. These tie us to Christians of the past, and make us recognizable as such in our culture. As global homogenization continues, we are noticably different. We choose a way of life that is in reference to the ways of our ancestors (always a prophetic cry to Israel in the scriptures – to return to the ways of the fathers) and is one of less impact on the environment. We buy much less; we provide for ourselves as much as we can.

As a Christian, it is not just a matter of looking different and acting different. (Teenages have been doing that for generations.) If we dress Plain and live simply just because we are fascinated by the Amish, the novelty will wear off and we will tire of the game. I practice Plain life because it is my calling, my discipline and my sacrifice to God.

It is my calling, my vocation. I am called to live out my faith in a particular way, and Plain is part of that. It is my discipline because it keeps me faithful and mindful of the way of Jesus Christ. It is my sacrifice to God because I have given up the things of the world that pleased me most. My prayerful goal is to strip off the layers of worldiness from my personality and my soul, to be outwardly what God has told me inwardly.

How is this life in the Kingdom of God lived? It’s the simple way of living, the deliberate modesty and covering. It is daily prayer and Bible study. It is refusing to do things that other people take for granted – recreational shopping, enhancing one’s appearance, going to casinos. It is also something deeper than that. I mentioned credit cards; I am opposed to borrowing money for high interest rates. This just impoverishes people and drives up the real cost of goods. We have to pay taxes and buy car insurance, but I won’t buy life insurance. We will accept charitable help when we must, because stubborn pride and starving to death can go hand in hand. We will be collecting the disability insurance Nicholas had through his Canadian pension; he paid into it for many years and there really isn’t anway to opt of it if one is working in Canada.

We will not sue other Christians – and I’ve never had an opportunity to bring a suit against anyone else. We are admonished in scripture to take our case before the bodyof Christ and not to the civil courts. The legal system is of this world; it sets people in adversity against each other. I could have sued the church when my employment was unjustly terminated, according to a lawyer we consulted. I chose not to, for more than one reason, but primarily because it is not Biblical. I could not see any possibility of reconciliation with the church if I brought a lawsuit. We are still not completely reconciled; I pray for it everyday. I have asked for forgiveness and reconciliation, and it is not resolved yet, after five years. But we are also admonished to be patient in our petitions.

We did not sue the hospital where Nicholas was so badly injured. There was a communications error and a mistake made, but it was not negligence or maliciousness that caused the accident. Suing the hospital would have helped us a lot financially, but it would have brought harm to our neigbours who support that hospital with their taxes. The hospital did a lot to make up for what happened; individual staff members were kind and generous, as were people of the community. They did what they could. I did not want to gain by injuring them.

Yes, people think we are crazy. They think we are religious fanatics. They think we must have guilty consciences and are trying to make up to God for it. But we are reconciled in Christ; we are forgiven and made whole. Nothing crazy about that!

A serious Christian, my husband Nicholas

7 thoughts on “The Two Kingdoms

  1. I have just found your blog – and I am in sympathy with it. I have what I choose to call ‘dual citizenship’ – I am both an Anglican and a Quaker. I don’t dress as plainly as you – but simply. Almost all my clothes are second hands or hand me downs. I do wear some jewelry – but it is cheap. My hair is died – I live with my daughter who insisted I do something about my white/grey hair. I’m originally a redhead and accidentally died it a very bright red one day. It shocked me. But it has turned out to be fun – the people who speak to me now! SO isn’t that a turn up?

    I don’t sue either. I once worked for a church organisation – which was the worst experience of my life other than the death of my husband. I could have gone to my union and sought re-instatement (in which case the church almost certainly would have paid its way out) but I didn’t on principle. I was offered some money from the church org – but I took nothing from them. I worked very hard spiritually on myself so that I would not be bitter and twisted and eventually trained myself to pray for those who treated me badly. This is not easy and the grief and the pain and the outward effects of what is done took many years to go away – and sometimes I wonder if all the effects did go. But, as Christians, we are never promised a bed of roses. And, if our journey takes us down the prophet’s path, this is one way of finding even more thorns to the square inch, don’t you think.

    God’s blessings on you and yours as you follow His Way in all things.

    Blessings and bliss
    Brigid

    • I am so glad to hear from you! I had a look at your lovely blog. Mine looks like such an amateur venture next to yours. Funny you should write about the Jesus Prayer – we were just talking about it today, since this morning’s sermon was on the Pharisee and the Publican. I wrote about it a couple of years ago. Is there anything more comforting in stress, more motivating in fear, than this prayer?

  2. Let the world think what they will! I will strive to focus on God and keep my eyes on Him. My weakness is collecting things but of late I have gotten rid of so many things and I tell you what, I don’t miss them at all. I never bought expensive collectibles, it was the getting so focused on finding the next collectible I lost sight of what is truly important! Thanks for the wonderful post.

    • Collecting is such a trap. I have inadvertantly collected things at time – fish decorated items (not real fish); teapots; primitive art. I then get fed up with having all these useless items and no room left, so I clear out the lot. Some of us who are well-organized fall into those traps – got to “complete” the set, and the colelctibles sellers know that, so the set is never complete!

  3. magdalena,

    a powerful post for these times and this generation!! Increasingly, members of the Body of christ from diverse denominations are moved by it, seeing the ways of the world, ‘the system’, as I call it, for what they truly are, be it governmental structure, capitalism/communism, the way in which 50% of the earth’s population live the way they do on the backs of the remaining 50%… From increasing numbers of ‘isolated Plain’ spannning the denominational spectrum, to secular groups such as ‘Straight Edge’ choosing to opt for something other than the System, (increasingly, Straight Edge is attracting not insignificant numbers of Christians who live out their faith in witness to their fellow ‘Straight Edgers’, and those within the movement that advocate peaceful means of addressing social justice and life-destroying issues tackled. new emphasis within the RCC from the ‘Plain Catholic’ movement founded by Fr. Vincent Mc.Nabb to Catholic Social Teaching and extensive works such as Laborum Exercens (on Human work), to the Plain way growing gradually but steadily within the Anglican sphere, and other Protestant denominations without a Plain herritage. if there is only one book you read over winter, do take a look at ‘the Legacy’ by Dr. David Suzuki. he has recently been in Australia and I had the privelege of hearing him speak on radio, giving a wonderful half hour interview (Couldn’t make his talk that night). He, along with others, such as the Australian Peter Andrew, are in my thinking, Prophets of this age, and as happened to the Prophets of old, ears by and large remain shut where they should be open.

    I will continue to pray for a posting for you, that our heavenly Father may place you where you are most needed in His work, though the time has been slow and full of struggle… I wish it could simply be resolved right now, that those who nurse long held counterproductive emotions within Anglican quarters could simply learn to move on and treat you with the dignity you – all of us – deserve.

    I shall pray for a posting and a good lead that bears fruit to come about promptly…

    Blessings,

    Sarah.

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