In this chapter, Boyd traces how the church transitioned from a band of resident aliens who viewed themselves as separate from the kingdoms of this world (because they were part of the kingdom of God) to a group that largely uses the means of the kingdoms of this world to operate by and gain power.
He wants us to understand the concept of firstfruits. We, who are kingdom of God people, are to be the visible sign of what the kingdom of God will look like when it is fully manifested.
This is how it plays out in the biblical narrative: To take back God's creation from the influence of sin and Satan, God put his plan into motion regarding Jesus and his sacrifice. But Jesus' victory, though eternally complete, is seen in incomplete ways by us.
Hebrews 2:8 clarifies this when it states that although everything was put under Jesus' feet (he is authority over all things), we don't always see it this way. "In putting everything under [him], God left nothing that is not subject to [him]. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to [him.]"
While we wait for that completion, we are not to be passive but active, letting the kingdom grow and expand in and through us. We are the firstfruits of what will happen because we manifest in our lives what humanity and the world will look like when God's kingdom is fully manifested (2 Thess. 2:13).
This is why we are to view ourselves as different and separate: we are called to be holy, which means being Christlike, not merely subscribing to particular sets of moral and ethical commands (2 Tim. 2:4; Heb. 11:8-10; Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 6:17).
Staying separate and holy enables us to authentically serve others without compromise. Jesus' way of sacrificial love--of which the cross is the fullness of the kingdom--is in contrast to all attempts to use power to get one's way. The history of the church, sadly, is one of trading it's holy mission for one they perceived to be "good," but one that was too often compromised by control and coercion in the interest of gaining power.
Instead, we need to proclaim with our lives, and with our words when necessary, that the sole criteria for determining whether something is a manifestation of the kingdom of God is the person of Jesus. If an individual or group looks like Jesus, dying for those who crucified him and praying for their forgiveness in the process, the kingdom of God is manifested.
Likewise, if a group is making a power-play, how can they ever be said to manifest the kingdom of God? This brings to my mind the "battle" over school prayer. Of course, this implies Christian prayer, because those fighting so hard for prayer in public schools are not interested in multi-faith prayer. To my mind, they are interested in asserting power over the system, gaining control, likely for (in their mind) a positive outcome. The result, if they are victorious (I'm deliberately using the language of conquest), is to coerce those who do not feel the same way and to subject non-Christians to Christianity. How does this manifest the kingdom of God as seen in the person of Jesus?
What do you think?