Not of this world – Lessons from John 18:36

CrownLately I’ve been thinking about how the church should interact with the surrounding culture. In my country, society is moving rapidly away from the Judeo/Christian moral framework. Seemingly, every point of view is tolerated with the exception of an overtly Christian one.

In response to this, it is not difficult to find “culture wars” rhetoric that seeks to drive me to political action. The rhetoric plays to my fears of a culture that is alien or even hostile to the standards that are set by Scripture.

A book that I was reading today made reference to John 18:36 which says:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (ESV)

It struck me that this statement informs me about how I should respond to those in power that often make decisions with which I do not agree.

Not a political agenda

The Kingdom of God will not be advanced through a political agenda. Jesus’ Kingdom has different rules of engagement than Pilate’s political world.

Not through coercion

Jesus repudiates the use of force for external coercion. Otherwise, Jesus would get his servants to fight.

In addition to Jesus’ Earthly servants, he also has the command of the angels. When you consider that one angel single-handedly took out an army of 185,000 soldiers (2 Kings 19:35), imagine the power of a whole legion of angels.

If Jesus had a political agenda, he certainly had enough resources to implement that agenda.

Bigger than this world

Our focus should not be on reformation of our society. Yes, the church has had an impact on society, but that effect cannot be the church’s primary goal. We are called to make disciples. In the process of making disciples, we trust that God will change people’s hearts and minds so that they want to live according to Scripture.

If there is any change in society, it is a result of God changing the hearts of a sufficient number of people for the societal change to take place.

The church cannot be satisfied with only a temporal change in the surrounding society. We are called to be agents used by God to bring about eternal change. We are called to help people move into a much larger kingdom.


While God does call some to engage in the political process to bring about temporal change (think of William Wilberforce), this cannot be the primary focus of the church. Our allegiance is to a much bigger King and a much bigger kingdom.