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The Earthly Kingdom vs. The Heavenly Kingdom

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Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

I did my undergraduate degree in religion from an old ALC Lutheran college in Moorhead, Mn. Concordia College was my choice, in part, because it was not Presbyterian. I was raised Presbyterian and wanted to look at the Christian faith from another perspective before entering Seminary. I learned to deeply appreciate Martin Luther and Lutheran theology. At one point I seriously considered becoming Lutheran. I loved the sacredness of the liturgy and aspects of its theological history. Yet, there was one aspect of Luther’s theology I just couldn’t embrace.

Luther, and the Lutheran professor I studied under most, affirmed and taught the theology of the two kingdoms. This theology confessed that there was the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. God has blessed both kingdoms and is ultimately in control of both kingdoms. Therefore, the earthly kingdom and its earthly leaders are under God’s guidance. The heavenly realm and its leaders are under God’s guidance. The earthly kingdom and its leaders should not interfere with heavenly, and the heavenly kingdom should not interfere with the earthly. That means that religious leaders should not interfere in the affairs of the earthly leaders, and vice-versa.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran minister in Germany. He was a man of deep faith and as Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party was brutally abusive. Their ideology and Bonhoeffer’s Christian faith were in conflict. He faced the two kingdoms’ theology but couldn’t stand by and idly watch the Nazis take over not only his nation, but the soul of its people. In time, he and other theologians spoke out against the Nazis and even had a hand in the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler. He wrote letters of religious instruction that inspired the people, up until the day Bonhoeffer was murdered in a concentration camp.

The earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom should not be compartmentalized. Our faith lives influence the way we respond to the world. To separate the two kingdoms leaves us less than whole, and vulnerable to corruption. Today, pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us through the challenges of this earthly world. Rather than leave them to the earthly leaders, we all need to allow God’s faith to influence and guide the way we reach out to the world around us. Seek the Sprit’s wisdom to know how to respond to the world around us.