This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017.
Ever wondered what in the world is wrong with people? An even better question would be to ask, “What in the world is wrong with me?” The answer is found in the Bible’s grand narrative of king and country.
Our meaning and purpose as humans is found in our identity as image-bearers, representatives of God’s reign, royal regents exercising dominion over God’s world to extend the blessing and life and joy of his kingdom to the ends of the earth. Our power as God’s representatives was given to us for the purpose of cultivating and extending that fruitfulness in each other and in God’s world. Our dominion was designed to be driven not by craving—after all, in a perfect world, what lack would there be to hunger for?—but by the eager desire to bend blessing outward to others.
But with the Fall, everything changed. Dethroned from our position of dominion, every human heart now has a cavernous longing for the authority that once was ours. The unquenchable desire deep within you for acclaim and admiration and accolades is your heart’s open wound of kingship lost. Philosopher Blaise Pascal identified this ache as the ache of absent authority: “Who is unhappy at not being a king, except a deposed king? All these miseries prove man’s greatness. They are the miseries of a great lord, of a deposed king.” The reason you are discontented with your life is because you were made for more. Think on this for a moment: a dog is perfectly content being a dog, and is untroubled by desires and goals out of its reach, because a dog was only created to be a dog and nothing higher. And yet you and every other person you know is hounded by a gnawing hunger for more, for better, for greater, because you were, in fact, made for more and better and greater things. You are no mere bag of flesh and appetite, destined to live and eat and die. You are exiled royalty, with an immortal heart clawing against its cage of futility, haunted by the irrepressible memory of the kingdom for which you were made.
Because of this desperation, our relationship with the authority that once was ours has become twisted, and rather than embracing God’s definition of dominion we have followed in the path of our reptilian overlord, hungering to use and abuse power for our own selfish ends. Satan’s strategy for power—to seize it and wield it to advance his own personal kingdom—has taken deep root in our hearts, and has become our almost inescapably default desire. We live with our defenses up and our claws out, deeply wounded and deeply wounding. We demand our own way, and we either sulk or sin when we don’t get it. We innately believe that might makes right, that the strong survive, that meekness is weakness. We are drawn to outward beauty and visible strength and we despise such invisible qualities as “humility” and “servanthood” (and even when we claim to prize those character traits, deep down it’s usually only as a means to our own desired end).
Yet God’s kingdom runs on an entirely different set of values. We have embraced the upside-down value systems of hell so thoroughly that the way God talks about reality seem strange: the last shall be first, you gain your life by losing it, gentleness is true strength, the meek inherit the earth, etc. In God’s economy, it’s the broken who are beautiful, the humble who are happy, the weak who are strong. We find this bizarre and utterly foreign to the “real world” that we inhabit: the world of supermodels and celebrities and politicians and Disney princesses who are all achieving their dreams by following their hearts and discovering how wonderful they are. It takes a thousand pages of biblical history, seeing how God patiently works with backwards humanity, to learn the lesson that God’s not the one who’s upside down; we are.