The Tyranny of the Gospel
Americans’ repulsion at the thought of being ruled by a king can be seen in Virginia’s State Flag, where the Roman goddess Virtus is depicted holding a sword and a spear; underneath the foot of Virtus is Tyranny. This represents the state’s defeat of Great Britain. A crown lying on the ground represents Virginia’s release from the control of Great Britain. The broken chain held by Tyranny represents the freedom of Virginia from Britain’s control of expansion and trade. A whip in the other hand of Tyranny is rendered useless, representing the state’s freedom from acts of punishment by the British. The seal also features the motto “Sic semper turannis,” which means “Thus always to tyrants.”
King Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem make for easy targets as people who balked at the idea of being held in subjection to another:
Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Mt. 2:1-3
But what of us? How comfortable are we wholesale surrendering all of our God-given rights to Jesus Christ? Given the choice of being ruled by the government or ruled by God, I believe a high percentage would pick the government. The Tyranny of the state appears less threatening than the Tyranny of the Gospel.
After Pontius Pilate made efforts to release Jesus, he said to the Jews, “Look, your King!” So they shouted “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king except Caesar!” Jn. 19:14-15
The very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, offered up a middle-of-the-road position: “Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.” Although well-intentioned, that’s a poor substitute for God’s best, which is the all-encompassing Lordship of Christ.
How might a monarch react if the common man or woman resists being ruled over? Once, as a child, there was a garden party at Buckingham Palace, but rain forced the party to move indoors. Queen Elizabeth and her younger sister wandered into a room and were bombarded by questions. During a pause in the conversation, Elizabeth pointed toward a painting of Jesus on the wall and said, “That’s the man my papa says is really King.”
Compare and contrast those sentiments with that of Napoleon Bonaparte, a brilliant general judged historically as a tyrannical despot himself. While exiled at St. Helena, he was struck with the reflection that millions are now ready to die for the crucified Nazarene who founded a spiritual empire by love, while no one would die for Alexander, Caesar, or himself, who founded temporal empires by force. He saw in this contrast a convincing argument for the divinity of Christ, saying: “I know men, and I tell you, Christ was not a man. Everything About Christ astonishes me. His spirit overwhelms and confounds me. There is no comparison between Him and any other being. He stands single and alone.'”
Did Napoleon stop at mere head-knowledge of Jesus’ Kingship? Or did he humbly submit to it? Only he and the Lord God knows. The better question for all who are alive and reading this is: Can Jesus be the Savior of my soul without Lording over every facet of my life? The answer is, momentarily, yes. However, genuine conversions go hand-in-hand with daily dying to self, taking up one’s cross, and following Him. Always. Paul summarized as much in Colossians 3:1-3: “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” A prison ministry I preached at in Pensacola, Florida, repeated a line over and over I’ll never forget: “If it’s got no fruit, check the root!”
Just like you cannot become a citizen of Japan unless your mother is Japanese. You cannot become the President of the United States unless you are born here. Pertaining to the Kingdom of God, you cannot enter it until you have been born from above according to Philippians 3:20: But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We’re all ruled over by someone, and far from being tyrannical, the Gospel is freedom. Why would anyone ever opt for the state?