Series: The Jesus Way #8
Published by Herald Press on February 23, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Theology
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What is God’s kingdom? And what does it look like to live as a loyal citizen of God’s reign?
César García leads us on a searching examination of what it means to belong to God’s kingdom, how Jesus’ life and ministry demonstrate about our call to seek it first and how our allegiance to Jesus challenges and reshapes our loyalties to political systems and governments. Learn about theological concepts such as the separation of church and state and kingdom ethics, and explore practices for people seeking to embody God’s kingdom community.
The Jesus Way: Small Books of Radical Faith delve into big questions about God’s work in the world. These concise, practical books are deeply rooted in Anabaptist theology. Crafted by a diverse community of internationally renowned scholars, pastors, and practitioners, The Jesus Way series helps readers deepen their faith in Christ and enliven their witness.
The Jesus Way is a series of short introductory theologies on various foundational topics written by a diverse community of pastors and scholars from the Anabaptist tradition. As I’ve grown in my own faith, I’ve found myself leaning ever and ever more toward Anabaptism because of how they have managed to blend evangelicalism with a robust theology of social justice and focus on church as a community. Even as a seminary-trained pastor, I have found personal devotional value in these foundational and accessible volumes because of their (unfortunately) unique perspective within evangelicalism.
Of all the volumes in this series, What is God’s Kingdom? is certain to be the most controversial and the most necessary. While the issue is nuanced and volumes upon volumes have been written about God’s Kingdom and, in particular, how God’s kingdom affects how we live in and rule our own empires, Cesar Garcia’s summation is incisive and comprehensive. While we often spiritualize the Kingdom of God as the community of believers or see it as a future hope, Garcia wastes no time getting into practicalities and politics.
Note that the word is politics and not partisanship. Nothing in the book is geared toward (or against) a specific political party or even indicative of any particular country. Garcia is simply adamant that living in God’s Kingdom is bound to affect how we live in our own polis (city). He wisely begins by noting that political partisanship was common in the day of Jesus. The Pharisees, Saducees, Zealots, and Essenes all had different political philosophies and ideologies for dealing with the Roman Empire. Christ doesn’t side with any one of them, but instead inserts his own reality.
Jesus spoke with political language and imagery that meant something to the people of his day. While the Jewish people hoped for a political Messiah who would overthrow Rome, what they got was a just-as-political Messiah who introduced a new, subversive upside-down Kingdom within the empire. It’s not a Kingdom that’s only otherworldly or for the eternal state, but a Kingdom that is situated in time and space as an alternative to man-created political structures.
This separation of church and state is a hallmark of Anabaptism, some of whom believe Christians should vote or hold public office. Garcia doesn’t go this far, but he is clear that our focus should not be “Christianizing” our secular politics, but ensuring that our churches are seen as sacramental representations of God’s Kingdom.
At a slim 85 pages, it’s amazing how much nuance Garcia brings to the text, never over-generalizing, never resorting to stereotype or caricature, somehow distilling all the complexities of the issue in a cogent and compelling manner. What is the God’s Kingdom? is a book to be studied. Read it slow and soak it in. It’s the springboard toward how we develop our church communities and how we orient our own lives as ambassadors of reconciliation. As I closed the final pages, I was ready to start back from the beginning again to take notes, write down question, and ponder implementation.