In its pursuit of prosperity and success, American Christianity has thought little of the Kingdom
of God as a present, dynamic, victorious reality in the life of the believer. Either it has been
deflated as an ill-defined spiritual force within each of us, thereby failing the test of divine
objectivity, or as a future Utopian reward (Heaven) for faithful service. It is the in-between time
and presence that has eluded us. That has led to a primary focus on OPS – “Other People’s Sins”,
rather than on our own, as our own sins are past and covered. Convenient way to live!
“The Cost of Discipleship”:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book that became very popular after his death – “The Cost of
Discipleship”, in which he coined the phrase “cheap grace” as applied to the white, suburban,
comfortable Church. No one can deny that the Lutheran Church in Germany, in its insistence on
subjection to the sovereign State (Rom 13:1), had misjudged Hitler. No one can deny that the
seeds of anti-Semitism in Hitler’s Germany were embedded beneath a veneer of love glued onto
the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer, however, became complicit in the assassination attempt on
the life of Adolph Hitler, taking discipleship a giant step beyond the Lordship of Christ.
We can applaud Bonhoeffer’s writings and certain of his actions that appeal to our own sense of
urgency as living witnesses. We cannot, however, neglect the fact that he left behind a legacy of
radical theological ideas that have given rise to a lot of mischief, including the forward march of
white American Evangelicals today into political dominion. Bonhoeffer yielded to the temptation
to write a new chapter in Christian history and, in so doing, did great damage to the Church he
so dearly loved. His timing in other respects, however, was spot on. He led many into a new
understanding of human rights and the universality of the Kingdom of God.
Distinction of “Governing Authorities” as Evil or Good:
Jonathan Mayhew received his DD from Harvard in 1747 and pastored a church in Boston until
his death in 1766, ten years before the American Revolution. John Adams called him “the
morning guru of the Revolution”. He took a look at Romans 13 and decided that Paul did not
really mean that everyone must subject himself to all governing authorities, so he wrote a
sermon, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” He gave license to subjectively marginalize
some leaders as “evil”, thereby not from God, while others as “good”, thereby of God.
Mayhew was in the tradition of the Pilgrims in America. Longing for a protestant theocracy, they
came to America to create Augustine’s “City on a Hill” – the Kingdom of God on earth. Thus,
Mayhew interprets Paul’s writings in a way that would reinforce the revolutionary spirit brewing
within the new country. Ironically, he was a fan of King George, whom he qualified as “good”.
We are here in this world today and must adapt in some measure to the culture in which we live.
Yet, we are Kingdom Kids and must make the counter-cultural life of Christ known, not by
resisting leaders not of our liking, but by living as citizens of a higher order – the Kingdom.
The church that holds to that principle is the very glue of grace that keeps the world from flying
apart and gives us some measure of peace on earth despite the lack thereof.