Kurios Iesous! A very happy Queen’s Birthday weekend to you! This is the weekend on which New Zealand has set aside to honour the birthday of the reigning monarch – currently Queen Elizabeth II.
The only issue for us as Christians is that Elizabeth II isn’t our sovereign. This is where we may end up in trouble, but then, so did the first Christians. They refused to worship or ultimately serve any authority above Jesus (Acts 5:29). Interestingly enough, this got them into quite a bit of trouble with the empire. They were thought of as many things; bad citizens, cannibals (this is my body, this is my blood), people who practiced incest (greet the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss), and atheists! The courage that they showed was in the fact that they were willing to be thought of as all of these for the sake of being good citizens of Christ’s kingdom.
As I look around at the Church today, I wonder, are we willing to be bad citizens of our earthly dwellings, in order to be thought of as good citizens of the Kingdom of God? I wonder, who is the ultimate authority in the lives of the Christians around us? Is it the state? Is it themselves? Or is it Jesus?
The demands of Jesus are radical – to quote one of my favourite writers, ‘When Christ calls a man (or woman), he bids them come and die’ (Bonhoeffer). This call demands a radical response in us, a giving up and giving over of all things to Christ, to place everything under his Lordship. But, the thing is, this has to be a real surrender, it can’t be one of those things that we say, and then ignore it when it is inconvenient to our own personal happiness.
We live in New Zealand, and under the rule of the Queen, but more than that, we live in the Kingdom, and under the rule of Jesus. It is easy for us to give honour to those who rule over us, it is easy for us to take a day off work, and to celebrate the birthday of the queen, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, but do we consider what it means to honour Christ above Queen and Country?
Do we need to give up certain practices in order to be faithful? What is the cost of following Jesus? Because there is a cost, there is something that we have to give up. The call of Christ is to deny ourselves, take up our Cross daily, and to follow along behind him. I often forget that the cross Jesus is talking about was an instrument of shame, torture, public disgrace and death. When I remember that I do a double take – What!? You want me to surrender myself to shame and death?! What kind of ‘abundant life’ is that?! While that may be my reaction, upon reflection on how Christ has loved us, and gave his life for us, how can I do less than to go where He calls me?
How seriously do we take those words of Jesus? I know that I often will read them and think they are a nice motto for life. But how closely do I hold them to my heart? How determined am I to follow my Lord all the way to the cross? This weekend is a great time to reflect on what it means to honour Jesus above all else.