What has happened to two-kingdom theology?By Kent Yoder
The intense political engagement of many Mennonites today leads us to ask what has happened to the two-kingdom theology we once held.
A few decades ago, many of us believed neither the church nor the individual Christian should be engaged in politics. The church was separate from the world, set apart as a faithful witness to God’s kingdom. The government kept order in the world and represented a kingdom where God was present but Christ was not given authority.
In recent years many of us have turned from a two-kingdom theology which, in the past, led us to live apolitical and socially isolated lives. We have demonstrated a belief that our Christian conscience should be reflected in government politics. We feel a moral obligation to speak to our political leaders, calling them to hear God’s voice and to be accountable for their actions.
We also realize that our daily lives are part of a much larger political reality. Air pollution and unjust economic structures affect the lives of many people in other parts of the world. These realities impact how we think about the ordinary tasks of driving to work or buying groceries.
Our engagement in politics expresses our understanding of what it means to faithfully follow Christ in the world. Our faith convictions have become more than an inward response to God. We also believe God calls us to a more public expression of faith. It is here, where the Christian engages society, that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world converge.
We may continue to speak of two kingdoms, but this does not mean the two are separate. The church is called to be the image of Christ in the world, a witness within society. While we live out our primary identity as witnesses to God’s kingdom, we simultaneously live politically engaged lives as citizens of a nation.
There is a place for two-kingdom theology, but no longer a form of it that leads to social isolation. We must speak of the two kingdoms engaging each other, as we seek to follow Jesus in our daily lives.
Because of our past political disengagement, we Mennonites have a long road ahead of us as we develop an understanding of the church’s political witness.
As we continue to engage in conversations about the nature of our Christian witness, let us be cautious about becoming caught up in the divisiveness of partisan politics.
If we can share the Lord’s Supper together and confess in unity that Jesus is Lord, there must also be a common place where we can gather to ask how this confession shapes our lives as we engage our society and our government.
Let us turn to Christ, the center of our lives, with a willingness to eat, pray, study and talk together about what it means to be a Christian engaged in politics.
Kent Yoder works for the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland.
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