How to build your own kingdom (Part II)

Mark Smith continues to help us recognise when we are building our own kingdom.  ATTENTION: the authors note is essential reading at the end.

Mark Smith continues to help us recognise when we are building our own kingdom. ATTENTION: the authors note is essential reading at the end.

Be slow to forgive and never apologise
The kingdom that Christ is ushering in is one where sinful people recognise their need of forgiveness and as a result readily forgive when they have been wronged. They set their forgiven-ness over and against any wrong done to them. They give up the self-righteousness of victimhood and recognise that they are (in large part) perpetrators. Moreover the cross not only brings forgiveness but new life and a new identity. Citizens of the kingdom know that God’s opinion of them is based on Jesus’ perfect righteousness and so they are free to apologise - there is no fear of losing face. In the kingdom of Jesus people can keep short accounts, love one another even though it’s hard, forgive, repent and embrace one another again as family. To some people that sounds beautiful and compelling. Don’t be fooled by such thinking, building your own kingdom requires that you turn from this weakness.

Being wronged by someone gives you power over them but apologising to anyone weakens you. When you are wronged it is important that you hold that sin over the person for as long as possible. This has a number of positive effects for building your own kingdom. Firstly, if you actually still need the person you implicitly remind them who’s in charge and you keep them in line by showing how hurt you have been. Second, it strengthens your position with others because you can add this new sin into your own victim narrative. Taking these two things together you must time your forgiveness perfectly. Too soon and the sinner won’t properly feel your indignation and learn their lesson. Too slow and the people around you will begin to realise how mean spirited you are. Time it right and you can use your forgiveness as a way to show how gracious you are - don’t worry it’s not true - you don’t even have to mean it!

As for repenting yourself? Luther might have thought this this was a daily necessity in the life of the christian (Thesis 1 of the 95 Thesis) but he was wrong. In order to avoid ever really apologising it is best to learn the “politicians apology” that is, “im sorry if…”. “I’m sorry if you were offended”, “I’m sorry if you misunderstood me”. See what you’ve done? In your apology you have made it their problem! 

Stifle your Generosity
The generosity of God in the gospels is astounding. Jesus’ high priestly prayer catalogues all that the father has given the Son: words, work, a name, the disciples, all believers. Then in concluding that prayer in v.24 he prays that we too would share the life that he enjoys with his father - what stunning generosity! Moreover, you see real doctrinal generosity in both Jesus’ statement “He who is not against us is for us” (Mk.9:40) and in Paul’s rejoicing that some preaching Christ out of “rivalry and vain conceit”(Philippians 1:17). 

It would benefit the leader who wishes to build the kingdom of Christ to, from time to time, ask; “do I think I be in heaven with this brother/sister”? And if the answer is “yes” to reflect on what ways we can show Christ-like generosity towards them. 

As for the leader seeking to build his own kingdom…? It was said of Ebenezer Scrooge that he was “as cold and solitary as an oyster” - seek to emulate the great literary character (before his fall into folly). He was a man of means, incredible resources and power. Building your kingdom requires a similar management style. If you are generous with the people under your care and encourage them to participate in other ministries, or if you are generous in terms of who you will partner with; something might grow out of it but it won’t be your kingdom. 

But of course, everyone knows how a Christmas Carol ends and no one likes Scrooge before his “redemption”, so you have to play the game. One of the ways you can do that is but appearing to reach across the theological isles but stacking the deck in terms of where decisions are made. This means you can appear magnanimous by having your theological “adversaries” at the table but retaining any real power for yourself. 

Be the child who always brought the ball to the kick about, that way you can decide who plays, for how long and in what position. Never demean yourself by going and playing with someone else ball, that is, putting yourself in a subordinate position in someone else kingdom. Unless of course you are asked to speak, that way you can put your faux generosity on display for all to see! 

Another way to stifle generosity is to define yourself theologically in terms of what you are “against” and not what you are “for”. 

Against liberals - both real and perceived.

Against charismatics - doesn’t matter what type they are all the same. 

Against those who like the people you don’t.

Against people who don’t tick all our your particular theological boxes. 

This means that you will always be on the defensive, always on guard waiting for someone to “reveal themselves”. And you need to be. In your kingdom there is no room for diverse thought. Defining yourself in terms of what you might be “for” opens you up far too much diversity. How do you expect to control people and situations in an environment like that? 

In all these things a veneer of godliness is needed because it covers up the cracks in your character and stops people from looking too closely. Paul in his letter to Timothy knew it was possible to have a “form of godliness” (2 Tim. 3:5). You must discover the veneer that works best for you! 

Reflect deeply on these five points and you cannot fail to build your own kingdom, to the glory of you and the good of no one but yourself. 

Authors note
What a horrible way to live and conduct your ministry. I’m so glad this never happens! 

Sadly we all see the faces of those ministers of the gospel for whom these sorts of actions are true and honestly that was why I started to write. But then something terrifying happened. I began to realise that the things I was writing about; these toxic, putrid dispositions and temptations all exist in my own heart. I know what it is to use people and not love them, to parade faux humility, to resent someone who didn’t do what I wanted or who walked away from my “plan for their life”. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” but sometimes I feel in my soul like I’m the gate keeper for the forces of darkness! What love, that he would redeem the likes for me. What grace that he would work in my heart to break down that old man and build the new man in the image of Christ. What Joy that I get to bring my sin tainted efforts and see him work through them for his glory and the good of those around me. Lord preserve us from having a form of godliness but denying its power! 

Mark Smith